By: John Raffel
Ithaca bounces back after season-opening loss to P-W
Ithaca’s football team is getting back on track after falling to Pewamo-Westphalia in a battle of defending state champions in the season opener.
Ithaca coach Terry Hessbrook came into this season realizing there would be some challenges and the Yellowjackets continue to show improvement as the season progresses.
“We will have a very small roster (22) players,” Hessbrook said in preseason. “We must have some luck on our side to stay healthy. If we do, we will be very competitive. Our roster has lots of talent, but most are inexperienced in games.”
Pewamo-Westphalia ended Ithaca's 73-game regular season winning streak 38-0 to open the season in front of more than 5,000 fans at Alma College.
The second week, Ithaca regrouped with a 46-14 win over Hemlock.
In week three, Ithaca defeated Saginaw Valley Lutheran 73-0. Quarterback Brady Hessbrook passed for 211 yards and three touchdowns to pace the offense with Bradeyn Shaw rushing for 80 yards and three touchdowns. Hunter Beck caught four passes for 140 yards. Zack Poff and Derek Draher led the defense with five solo tackles and one assist each.
Ithaca improved to 3-1 for the season with a 42–0 win against Pinconning.
In week five, however, the Yellowjackets were hit by injury when Hessbrook was lost with a potential season-ending injury. The Yellowjackets, however, rallied behind Peyton Smith who came in and guided Ithaca to a 42-7 win. Like Hessbrook, Smith is an excellent all-around athlete that will keep the Yellowjacket offense rolling
Hessbrook, the team’s sophomore quarterback, whose dad Terry is the longtime coach, has been focusing on being among the offense’s leaders.
It’s Brady’s second season on varsity after starting 10 games as a freshman in the secondary.
“I am obviously very proud of Brady at this point of the season,” Terry Hessbrook said. “He has endured some adversity as well as success early in the season. He has handled both very well.”
After four games, Brady Hessbrook completed 40-of-61 passes for 747 yards for six touchdowns. He also added 49 carries for 324 yards and has 10 tackles on defense.
“Brady's key to success has been the protection that his offensive line has provided him, so he can work through his reads to find open receivers,” Terry Hessbrook said. “He is very fortunate to have a good offensive line and some very good receivers around him.
He has added 15 pounds of muscle to his frame this year. He has worked a great deal on his mechanics and becoming a better quarterback. Strength has increased a great deal. Arm strength has improved. Ability to read defenses has improved.”
Terry Hessbrook has coached in Ithaca for a long time but admits it’s a unique situation with his son at quarterback.
“The opportunity to coach him has been memorable,” Terry said. “I try to not to treat him any different than anyone else when on the field. Some may say that I am harder on him than I would be on someone else. But we are just trying to enjoy the ride together. I hope that he will continue to grow as a football player and continue to learn the game and improve his craft. He has worked very hard in the off-season to improve. We work 5-to-6 days a week at getting better at the game. Lifting, speed training and throwing mechanics are all part of his weekly work load. It’s no different than any other quarterback we have had over the last 8-to-10 years.”