When Terry Hessbrook was a student at Ithaca and in need of a job, Steve Smith was there to help.
Now the Ithaca football coach is returning the favor.
Hessbrook has played a role in the development of Smith’s grandsons — Travis and Jacob. And it’s Jacob that has a chance to add to the legacy of the Smith family in Ithaca on Friday afternoon when the top-ranked Yellowjackets face Clinton in the Division 6 state championship game at Ford Field.
“The Smith family has been in Ithaca for many many years,” Hessbrook said. “Grandpa (Steve) Smith has donated a lot of his time and a lot of his money to our school system and our program. He is someone who has been a mentor to me since I was a student here in Ithaca.
“There’s a lot to be said for that and now to have the opportunity to coach his grandsons in back-to-back seasons really is quite an honor.”
Travis and Jacob Smith have contributed to a strong run of success for Ithaca football, which is in the state championship game for a sixth straight season. Travis Smith was a three-year starter and quarterbacked the Yellowjackets to 42 wins and three consecutive Division 6 state titles. Jacob Smith is in his second year as Ithaca’s starting quarterback and has combined with his brother for a 68-1 record under center.
That lone loss came in last year’s state final and Jacob Smith now has a chance to get Ithaca back on top and add another chapter to his family’s legacy.
Jacob Smith has been a key component behind the Yellowjackets returning to Ford Field and having an opportunity for a fifth state championship in six years. He’s thrown for 1,342 yards and 24 touchdowns and is the leading rusher for Ithaca with 1,632 yards and nine scores. And those numbers have come despite Smith being pulled during several contests in the second quarter during the regular season with Ithaca already well in control.
“He’s been a special player since his sophomore year,” Hessbrook said of Jacob, who was an Associated Press Division 5-6 special mention all-state selection. “He learned from and saw how Travis did things on the field. He had a pretty good mentor in that aspect as far as preparation. He has a tremendous work ethic and works year round at getting better with his mechanics and his timing and footwork and the weight lifting and conditioning and speed training and all that stuff that goes into being a great player. He’s a brilliant kid. He’s a a 4.0 GPA and he has a 30 on his ACT. Every Ivy League school I think has been in to see him as well as a couple of the service academies.”
Hessbrook said Jacob Smith handled the pressure of Ithaca’s record win streak and following in the footsteps of Travis with tremendous poise. And the Ithaca coach has noticed a hunger from him and others to get back to this point throughout their mission to climb back to the top of the mountain in Division 6.
“I think it was a humongous relief for me as well as all the players,” Hessbrook said of getting back to the Division 6 final. “A lot of times a team has a goal of doing that and has a lot of players back and something goes wrong and you get caught up or slip up somewhere along the line. I was very happy for this group of seniors that that didn’t happen and that they were able to get back to Ford Field and have an opportunity to redeem themselves so to speak.”
Contact Brian Calloway at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @brian_calloway.
Division 6: Ithaca vs. Clinton
When: 4:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Detroit
Where: Ford Field (Detroit)