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Jake Smith ready to be next in line of successful Ithaca signal callers

By: Jeff Dullack, August 21, 2014, 12:45 pm

ITHACA – Over the course of the past four years, Ithaca has put together a streak for the ages, winning four state championships and 56 consecutive games, and the Yellow Jackets have had plenty of help from the quarterback position with current college quarterbacks in Alex Niznak and Travis Smith.

Now, the Yellow Jackets will be handing the reigns of the quarterback position over to a new, promising quarterback in junior Jake Smith.

The younger brother of Travis, Jake steps in to take over the Ithaca offense, which has been in good hands in years past and head coach Terry Hessbrook said that the offense will continue to be in good hands with Jake, whose play reminds him of his previous quarterback.

“I’m hoping everybody gets to see what caliber of a player he is,” he said. “Somebody asked me the other day and I said ‘he’s not Travis, but he really has a strong arm and he has really good feet, he’s really intelligent, he has the ability to run and pass,’ and then I realize that I just described Travis Smith. So maybe he has a lot more in common with his brother than what I first thought.”

Smith, who played on last year’s state championship team as a sophomore wide receiver, but is now prepared to step in under center for the Yellow Jackets.

Smith said that while there is some pressure as he tries to fill the role as the starting quarterback, he is ready to do just that after an entire offseason of preparation.

“There’s a little bit of pressure,” he said. “But I’ve been preparing myself all offseason for this moment and do whatever I have to do for this team.”

Ithaca has just four seniors returning in 2014 after losing a large handful of players to graduation after last season.

But the Yellow Jackets still have several returning contributors to this year’s squad as they have several players who played a key role as sophomores last year returning as juniors this fall.

Offensively, Smith will be joined by linemen Noah Slater, Derrick Teed and Kurtis Ackels along with receivers Tyler Spitzley, Ryan Buckley and Spence Demull, while the defense will be anchored by linebackers Dallas Reeser, Jace Demenov and Aaron Barnes along with lineman Jonah Loomis and Miles Waldron will help solidify the return game.

The preparation for Smith’s first year as the starting quarterback goes back a while ago to when Niznak was still under center at Ithaca as Smith would train with both Niznak, who went on to play college football at Central Michigan, but his brother as well, who is now a freshman quarterback at Wake Forest.

“That’s helped me a lot,” he said. “When Alex was in high school, he, Travis and I would get together at my house, or up at the school and work and it’s all been leading up to this.”

For Hessbrook, to see his quarterbacks go so far back to train together is something that he is obviously pleased to see and said it even goes on to this day with younger, possible future Ithaca quarterbacks joining in.

“It’s really neat, because in the offseason, all of them have really good rapport, they get together and throw,” he said. “I have a young son who’s a quarterback and he comes and watches them work out and Jake’s got a younger brother, Peyton, who’s a quarterback in the seventh grade. There’s just a nice line of quarterbacks coming through here and they all work together. They work on footwork, they work on mechanics year round to be honest, it’s a small school and kids play other sports, but when they have free time, they work on their mechanics.”

Ithaca opens the season on August 29th at Clare as the Yellow Jackets open up their campaign for a fifth straight Division 6 state championship.