By: John Raffel
Ithaca sophomore fills in nicely at quarterback
It's never a good thing for a high school football team to lose its quarterback. But when someone can take over and do the job in impressive fashion, the situation becomes somewhat tolerable.
The loss of David Brown to an injury early in the season forced Ithaca coach Terry Hessbrook to make a quick change.
Enter Travis Smith, a sophomore.
Smith stepped into the third quarter of the Williamston game in the season opener. He had started at wide receiver with Brown at quarterback.
In the first drive of the third quarter, Brown tore a ligament in his ankle and did not return.
“Travis stepped in and has played very well in a tough situation against Williamston and in his first start on the road against St. Charles,” Hessbrook said. “His first drive, he threw an 80-yard touchdown pass. He was 8 of 9 passing [for 145 yards against Valley Lutheran]. He played very well for us.”
He ran for another 151 yards.
Smith came to the varsity level with impressive credentials.
“He played youth football quarterback and was our JV quarterback as a freshman,” Hessbrook said. “We're pretty excited about Travis. We think he's going to be an excellent quarterback. Probably the thing that stands out the most about Travis is his poise. He doesn't seem to get rattled at all.
“We're hoping to get David back. He goes back to the doctor. They'll take the cast off and reevaluate him, and we'll see where that's at. Right now, we're hopeful we can keep winning games until we get David healthy, then we'll have to deal with that situation when it arises. It's always good you don't lose your position just because you're injured. David won the position this summer and early fall. If he's healthy and can come back, we'll go back to the way we were.
“Travis is getting some timely experience that will only make him a better player in the future.”
Smith had played quarterback at previous levels but was all set to settle in at wide receiver for the varsity before Brown got hurt. He had not played the position that much before.
“We had 7-on-7s this summer,” Smith said. “Coach Hessbrook had me at wide receiver a couple of plays.”
Smith was impressive enough to get the nod at wide receiver for varsity. But when he had to step in at quarterback, he was ready.
“I think I've done all right,” Smith said. “I can get better on my throws and timing.”
He takes pride in his accuracy and arm strength as a passer, and he and his wide receivers are working well together. He also feels comfortable running with the ball. He's especially enjoyed handing the ball off to talented running backs like Garrett Miniard, who gained 258 yards in the opener over Williamston.
“We worked really hard in the summer, and it's all paid off so far,” he said. “Our line has done a good job blocking up front.”
Smith also starts in the defensive backfield.
Like his teammates, Smith is hoping for a repeat of 2010's success.
“If we work hard, we'll try to win a state championship,” he said.