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DREAM TEAM FOOTBALL: Ithaca's Travis Smith caps outstanding prep career with "Offensive Player of the Year" honors

Ithaca Senior Travis Smith (2) keeps the ball and runs it in for a two-point conversion against St. Louis at Ithaca Friday, Oct. 18, 2013. (Sun photo by KEN KADWELL/@KenKadwell).

Ithaca quarterback Travis Smith scrambles on a pass attempt during its Division 6 semifinal win against Montrose at Midland High School Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013. Smith set the state record for career touchdown passes in the win. (Photo by Skip Traynor)

Ithaca All-Staters Logan Hessbrook and Travis Smith celebrate a touchdown during Friday's Division 6 state final from Ford Field in Detroit. (Sun Photo by LISA YANICK-JONAITIS)

Travis Smith began carving out his legend at Ithaca as a sophomore two years ago.

On fourth-and-goal just inches from the end zone in overtime against Montague Nov. 12, 2011, Smith leapt over the pile for the touchdown to send the Yellowjackets to a 22-19 victory in Division 6 regional title game hosted by Ithaca.

Without that play, 56 wins in a row and four consecutive state championships never happens.

Smith and the Yellowjackets went on to win a second straight state championship that year and the first with the then-sophomore quarterback as the signal-caller.

It turned out to be only an early chapter in Smith’s unmatched legacy at Ithaca High School.

Two years later, Smith can look back on a career in which he has helped lead Ithaca to 42 of the now 56-game winning streak and three of the four D6 state championships in his incredible string of success. He started 41 of those games, the lone non-start being the 2011 season opener against Williamston when he stepped in for an injured David Brown.

Smith never again relinquished his vice grip on the starting quarterback job, at least until now as he will graduate in the spring and turn the starting quarterback duties over to his younger brother Jake.

During his stellar 42-game Ithaca quarterback career, Smith set the Michigan High School Athletic Association record for career touchdown passes with 104 and is second all-time in state history with 8,044 passing yards.

This season alone, Smith threw for 3,278 yards on 188-of-264 passing (71.2 pct.) with 42 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also rushed 91 times for 640 yards and 10 TDs.

Smith’s accomplishments this season earned him the honor of Associated Press Division 5-6 Player of the Year and plenty of other accolades. He now can add another honor as he is the Morning Sun Offensive Player of the Year.

“It made our jobs as coaches a lot easier to be able to turn over the entire offense to a Division I commit senior quarterback,” Yellowjackets head coach Terry Hessbrook said of Smith. “By the time he entered this season, he had everything in our offense down pat. The whole game slowed down for him this year as an experienced veteran. All the work he put in paid off and it was great to see him able to cap his Ithaca career the way he did.”

Simply put, Smith has put himself atop not only the Ithaca record books but among the great high school quarterbacks in state history.

The three state championships and helping continue the Yellowjackets’ nation-best winning streak clearly has more stock for Smith than the records he set along the way.

“It’s an amazing thing to look back at what we managed to do here over these past few years. It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Smith said. “I think it might take about five years for all of us, maybe when we all graduate college and come back to Ithaca to visit. But it is pretty awesome to think about.”

Smith, who committed to the University of Toledo June 7, came into the 2013 season with a little bit of extra motivation after the way the previous campaign ended.

While the Yellowjackets completed their state title run the year before, they won the Division 6 championship game at Ford Field largely without Smith as injured his shoulder early in the game and watched from the sidelines as Ithaca downed Constantine 37-27.

“I had about 15 teammates come up to me after the game and tell me we were going to get back here and win it again next year so I could play at Ford Field again,” Smith said. “I just want to thank all my teammates for the hard work they put in. None of this would have been possible without a great team around me.”

One thing is for certain – Smith and his Ithaca teammates will be revered in their hometown for generations to come.

“I am so proud to be from Ithaca. I wouldn’t want to be from anywhere else,” Smith added.

Joining Smith on this year’s offensive ‘Dream Team’ are the following talented players in the Morning Sun coverage area.

Running Back – Ty Rollin, Beal City, 5-8, Sr. – As the go-to running back on a powerful Aggies team that went 13-1 and advanced to the Division 8 state title game, Rollin rushed for 1,233 yards and 24 touchdowns on 124 carries. He also had 17 catches for 354 yards and another three TDs. Rollin was named first team Division 7-8 All-State.

Running Back – Jordan Gross, Clare, 6-0, 190, Sr. – Gross was a workhorse running back for Clare as he often carried the ball 25 times or over 30 in a single game. He rushed for 1,423 yards and 16 carries on the season to help the Pioneers to a 7-3 record. Gross picked up first team all-JPC recognition.

Wide Receiver – Logan Hessbrook, Ithaca, 6-3, 200, Sr. – The Yellowjackets’ offense had many go-to parts, but Smith’s biggest threat to throw to was Hessbrook. A first team Division 5-6 All-Stater, Hessbrook had 62 receptions for 1,262 yards and 19 touchdowns. He carried the ball one time and turned it into a 69-yard touchdown. He also had 63 tackles and five INTs on the defensive side of the ball.

Wide Receiver – Matthew Warner, Coleman, 5-10, 150, Sr. – Warner was a do-it-all threat for the Comets. He caught 39 passes for 1,152 yards and a 29.5 yards per-catch average. Warner had 14 TD receptions and three 2-point conversions. In addition, he returned one punt and one kickoff for a touchdown. Defensively, Warner made 46 tackles and had nine interceptions with two of those INTS being returned for a touchdown. His interception returns went for a total of 306 yards the other way, while he also broke up 14 passes. Warner earned special mention Division 7-8 All-State honors.

Offensive Lineman – Curtis Doyle, Alma, 6-6, 300, Sr. – Not only one of the top offensive linemen in mid-Michigan but also the entire state. He was a wall at left tackle for a 1-7 Panthers squad. Doyle earned Division 4-5 first team All-State honors. He is committed to Western Michigan University to play football.

Offensive Lineman – Brad Osterman, Carson City-Crystal, 6-2, 230, Sr. – Was top blocker on Eagles offense that rushed for over 3,000 yards and 6.5 yards per carry. An intelligent and devastating run blocker. He garnered Division 7-8 first team All-State recognition.

Offensive Lineman – Nick Ward, Beal City, 6-3, 205, Sr. – Very strong offensive lineman on Aggies team that rushed for 3,868 yards and threw for another 1,726 yards. Was named honorable mention Division 7-8 All-State.

Offensive Lineman – Erik Belco, Mt. Pleasant, 6-2, 280, Sr. – Made 35 career varsity starts for the Oilers and was a standout offensive lineman each of the past three seasons. Helped pave the way for Mt. Pleasant’s 448 points in 12 games and an appearance in the Division 3 regional finals. First team All-SVL.

Offensive Lineman – Lee Cole, Clare, 6-1, 200, Sr. – Clare head coach Kelly Luplow called Cole “one of the hardest workers I have ever had.” Cole was a main piece of an offensive line that helped find holes for Gross in the running game. He was honorable mention Division 5-6 All-State.

Utility – Adam Stremlow, Coleman, 6-2, 185, Jr. – The junior quarterback for the Comets threw for 2,703 yards on 138-of-260 passing and helped lead his squad to a 7-3 record. Stremlow threw for 35 touchdowns against just six INTs. He also rushed for five TDs. For his efforts, Stremlow picked up Division 7-8 special mention All-State honors.

Kicker – Alex Vanderploeg, Ithaca, 6-2, 190, Sr. – He benefited from the dynamic Yellowjackets offense as he booted 72-of-72 extra-point attempts. He also made 5-of-6 field goals with a long of 41. Also impressive were Vanderploeg’s kickoffs as he had 55 touchbacks on his 97 kickoffs. He was first team All-TVC West.

Coach – Terry Hessbrook, Ithaca – The Yellowjackets compiled their fourth straight 14-0 season, finishing with a 41-22 win over Clinton in the Division 6 state championship game. The 56 wins in a row are a nation-best for an 11-man prep football team, while the fourth consecutive state title ties for the second-longest streak in state history.

Last Updated: 12/14/2013 3:25:47 PM EST

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