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FOOTBALL: Smith etches his name in MHSAA lore, ends prep career with a fourth state title under center for Ithaca

   | Jeff Dullack

FOOTBALL: Smith etches his name in MHSAA lore, ends prep career with a fourth state title under center for Ithaca

DETROIT – Travis Smith didn’t have the fondest of memories about the last time he played at Ford Field.
 
After leading Ithaca to a third straight state championship game appearance in 2012, Smith, an all-state quarterback, was knocked out of the game on the second play from scrimmage, injuring his shoulder, forcing the talented signal caller to watch the rest of the contest from the sidelines.
 
Ithaca did end up winning its third straight state championship that day, but Smith, without question would have liked to play a bigger role in the Yellow Jackets’ 37-27 clipping of Constantine.
 
So heading into the 2013 season, Smith was more than motivated to get another shot at leading his
team to a state championship, like he had done in 2010 and 2011.
 
And that’s just what the sensational senior field general did.
 
The Toledo-bound star capped off his high school career with a fourth straight state championship, leading Ithaca to a 41-22 win over Clinton on Friday night to close out his time as a prepster in style. He was a flawless 41-0 as a starter.
 
“That’s the only thing I could think about on the bus ride down, was getting hurt last year and not being able to play,” said Smith. “I just wanted to go out with a bang in my senior year, playing at the highest level that the state has to offer.”
 
Ithaca head coach Terry Hessbrook said that he knew that Smith was itching to get back to the state finals and used that goal to push himself to the limit when he was rehabbing from his injury
 
“He had a lot of motivation, and his only goal through weight lifting and conditioning and with every rep that he did was by golly, I’m getting back to Ford Field,” he said. “They tore Ford Field out and when they took the turf out, our maintenance guy got us a couple of pieces of that turf and we laid that down across our track and that’s what we run across and the first game against Williamston, I said that that’s the first step in getting back to Ford Field.”
 
In Friday’s game, Smith finished with 247 yards passing and four touchdowns while completing 17-of-27 passes on the night. He also rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
 
Following the win, Smith commented on how he never imagined how things have ended up and that he would depart his time in the prep ranks with four state titles in tow.
 
“It’s really hard to believe,” said Smith, who also returned an interception for a touchdown in the first half. “Five years ago, I would have never thought that this would happen and five years from now I’m going to cherish it and whenever we’ll all just get together, that’s what we’re going to talk about, winning four in a row and being undefeated in our high school careers.”
 
Friday's state finals wasn't an easy walk in the park.
 
Clinton grabbed a 22-21 lead early in the third quarter, prior to Smith and the Ithaca offense going to work, immediately responding with a touchdown of its own, a 14 yard pass to Josh Hafner go back in front - and the Yellow Jackets never looked back.
Less than two minutes later, Smith found Logan Hessbrook for a 21 yard score to give his team a 34-22 advantage and later closed out the game in the fourth quarter with a 10 yard touchdown run.
 
Hessbrook said that there are plenty of things that he looks for in a quarterback as a coach and said that throughout his entire high school football career, Smith has more than lived up to each and every piece of his criteria.
 
“The first thing you look for in a quarterback is; is he a good leader?” he said. “Can he win? Can he play in big games? And does he have all of those intangibles? Travis has all of those and it wasn’t his best performance today, but the biggest thing for me is the only stat that matters is the victory and the kid is 42-0 as a varsity football player and 41-0 as a starting quarterback and nobody has ever done that in this state and that’s unbelievable, to be 41-0 as a starting quarterback.”
 
Off to college across the state border, Smith now hands the reigns over to his younger brother Jake, who will step in as the starting quarterback for Ithaca next fall.
 
Despite a decorated senior class departing from Ithaca after this season, Travis believes that the future is bright for the Yellow Jackets heading to 2014 with his baby bro at the controls in the huddle.
 
“It’s looking good here,” he said. “There’s a bright future and we’ve got a lot of young guys coming back and guys who will step in next year. My younger brother is a really good football player and I expect him to have two big football seasons these next two years."