Ithaca Finds a Hero in Hessbrook

November 23, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

DETROIT – Logan Hessbrook started at quarterback for Ithaca’s junior varsity last season as a sophomore, and probably would start for a few hundred teams that don't have the luxury of all-state quarterbacks every season.

But neither takes away from the fact that he’d taken only one or two reps at the position during the last four weeks of practice. With junior superstar Travis Smith behind center, there really wasn't a need.

So when Smith was injured on his team's second play of Friday’s MHSAA Division 6 Final at Ford Field, his coach and top receiver were quick to offer encouragement.

“I said, ‘Listen bud. Travis isn't coming back,’” Ithaca coach (and Logan’s uncle) Terry Hessbrook said. “’We’re going to live and die with you. Just play the way you’re capable of playing.’”

Senior Markes Gadlen – a three-year starting receiver and the third-string quarterback – also took Logan aside. “I can’t see over the line,” Gadlen told him, “so I was just letting him know he’s all we've got.”

And Hessbrook was more than enough.

Ithaca won its third straight MHSAA title – with a third quarterback leading the way – by downing Constantine 37-27. It was the second straight season the teams met in the championship game.

And Hessbrook was the most unlikely of heroes. Sure, he’s a starting defensive back. But in his number 26 jersey, he couldn't have looked more out of place running the offense – until he led it to four straight scores to break the game open midway through the fourth quarter.

“I was obviously nervous at the beginning, but I settled in as the game went on, and my teammates kept picking me up,” Hessbrook said. “They were saying you’re all right, we can help you, we can pick you up. The linemen did a great job blocking, the receivers did a good job blocking on the edge, and they ran good routes. We just did what we could do.”

The win also gave Ithaca its third straight 14-0 season. That streak of 42 straight victories is fourth in MHSAA history and two from tying for second. It’s also second and one win shy of the longest streak among those that took place entirely within the playoff era that began in 1975.

The Yellowjackets have beaten opponents by an average of 37 points over those games. And this season, they scored their most points (675, good for third-most in MHSAA history) and gave up their fewest (110) of the streak. But this game had all the signs of a streak buster.

“This might be the toughest game we've ever been a part of,” Terry Hessbrook said. “We haven’t faced a lot of adversity during this run. And a lot of our games have been over in the second or the third quarter. For these players to continue to fight the way they (were), I can’t put it into words and I can’t express how proud I am of the way they just kept fighting.”

Smith was hurt on a four-yard run on his team’s second play from scrimmage. But after that and despite his sizable absence, this rematch began playing out a lot like the teams' matchup in 2011.

Like last season, Ithaca and Constantine went into halftime tied – this time 20-20. And like last season, Ben Mallo and the Falcons’ run game was doing just about everything they wanted.

That’s hardly rare – the team ran for 6,407 yards on the season. And in this game, Constantine ran for 287 yards during the first half, and Mallo had 147. But after the Yellowjackets reviewed their assignments during halftime, the Falcons added only 130 more yards over the final two quarters.

And Logan Hessbrook looked like yet another star Ithaca quarterback. After completing just 2 of 5 passes this season heading into the game, he hit 7 of 13 for 104 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for 113 yards and two more scores.

“ We've struggled all year stopping people defensively. So when we game-planned to stop Ithaca, it wasn't to stop Travis Smith, so to speak,” Constantine coach Shawn Griffith said. “They did step up, I think, and show the ability to run a little bit better than we thought they were capable of doing when we came into the game. And they still hit the big pass when they needed to. You don’t win 42 straight football games because of one good football player. You've got to have a stable of them, and he’s got quite a few.”

While Ithaca’s second-half possessions amounted to 17 points, Constantine’s turned into seven – and included a turnover on downs, a lost fumble and a punt that was blocked by senior Tyler Gibson and eventually led to a field goal.

Constantine did end up with 504 total yards. Mallo ran for 207 and a touchdown – and had 12 tackles at linebacker – and sophomore Justin Hull added 102 yards and a score on the ground. Senior Tommy Reed, who didn't get to play quarterback in last season’s Final because of an injury, ran for a score and had 10 tackles at safety.

The Falcons finished 11-3 and made their run after finishing third in the Kalamazoo Valley Association.

“We were all seniors, and we all wanted to get back. We didn't want football to end, because for most of us this is our last chance,” Reed said. “Once the playoffs came, we finally started playing as a team. Our defense picked up and our offense continued to roll.

“To get back here, we had a couple turnovers that went our way, and we were able to convert on every turnover. This game was the opposite. We had a couple of turnovers and we couldn't convert, and the one we turned over to them they ended up converting. That’s what hurt us.”

Senior Jared Evers ran for one score and caught a pass for another for Ithaca. Senior Josh Capen had a team-high 10 tackles.

Click for full statistics and to watch a replay of the game. See below for the full press conference.

PHOTOS: (Top) Ithaca quarterback Logan Hessbrook (26) eludes Constantine defenders during one of his runs Friday. (Middle) Ithaca receiver Markes Gadlen hauls in a touchdown pass midway through the second quarter. (Click for more from Terry McNamara Photography.)

Mendon 8-Player Championship Game Run Paced by Record-Setting Rushing

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

May 26, 2023

Mendon’s run to the Division 2 Final last fall included some of the strongest rushing performances over the history of 8-player football.

The Hornets ran for 4,317 yards, second-most all-time, on the second-most attempts (520) and with a record-setting 682 yards Oct. 14 against Marcellus. Mendon also set the record for total offense with 692 total in that game, and made the single-season touchdowns list with 76 including 66 rushing (also second on that list).

Junior Jack McCaw made the single-season scoring list with 212 points, most coming on 29 touchdowns, and Evan Lukeman made the single-game rushing list with 401 yards against Marcellus. Mendon’s defense also earned praise, twice making the fewest-first-downs-allowed list with a low of three.

See below for more recent additions to the 8-player portion of the football record book:

8-Player Football

Athens’ Landon Bennett earned a pair of record book entries after reaching the end zone seven times during his team’s 72-0 win over Burr Oak on Sept. 8. His seven scores are tied for third-most in 8-player history and included three rushing, three on punt returns and one on an interception return. The three punt return touchdowns are a record. Bennett is a junior.

On the night Powers North Central broke its 8-player record for consecutive wins, claiming its 28th straight, senior Luke Gorzinski tied Jets great Jason Whitens for the record for interception touchdowns in a game with two, scoring on returns during the second and fourth quarters. Gorzinski has signed with Michigan Tech, and North Central’s winning streak is 37 games and counting.

A pair of Atlanta offensive playmakers and a top defensive lineman earned a total of seven entries in the record book for achievements last fall. Senior quarterback Tyler Currie threw for 30 touchdowns over eight games, and also made the records for six touchdowns and 419 passing yards against Whittemore-Prescott on Sept. 23; the passing yards are second-most for one 8-player game. Sophomore Landon Galea was added for 263 yards and five of those touchdowns against the Cardinals, and also for 1,418 yards receiving and 23 touchdowns over nine games. Junior teammate Tucker Kendrick made the tackles for loss list with five against Hillman on Oct. 6.

Adrian Lenawee Christian senior Brady McKelvey became the first to make the career extra points list in 8-player football this past fall. He bettered his previous single-season record making 64 of 66 extra-point attempts over 11 games and finishing his two-year varsity career with 123 extra points in 127 tries.

Sam McKissack reached the record book showcasing multiple skills for Crystal Falls Forest Park during the 2021 season – twice for rushing attempts in a game including with a record 59 against Ontonagon that Sept. 10, and then with a record 70-yard punt Oct. 30, 2021, against Lake Linden-Hubbell. Teammate Devon Basirico also made the record book with six fumble recoveries over 11 games that season. As a team, Forest Park was added twice for single-game rushing attempts – including 73 total in that Ontonagon game – and for 424 rushes over 11 games for the season. McKissack and Basirico are seniors this spring.

Nikolaus Lewis tied for eighth-most rushing touchdowns in an 8-player game when he reached the end zone six times for Carsonville-Port Sanilac in its win over Caseville on Oct. 7. He’s a senior this spring.

Bridgman has won 24 straight games over the last three seasons, and an exceptional offense – and exceptional offensive star – have played major roles. The Bees were added for 658 total yards in a win over Lawrence last season, that total ranking third all-time, and also 613 yards in a win over Eau Claire. Those included totals of 575 and 547 rushing yards, respectively, and Bridgman was added for 3,598 rushing yards (sixth on the list), 59 rushing touchdowns (fourth) and 76 total touchdowns (seventh). Senior Reid Haskins capped his four-year, 32-game varsity career with 13 record book entries, including for 254 points last season over nine games (tied for fifth all-time) and a record 620 career points, 41 touchdowns last season (fifth) and a record 95 for his career, 2,344 rushing yards last season (third) and a record 5,206 for his career, and 41 rushing touchdowns last season (third) and a record 94 for his career. Senior teammate Tanner Peters made the records three times including for 50 extra points last season (fourth) and 99 over 26 games and three seasons (second on the career list).

Mio's Austin Fox rewrote the 8-player passing record book this past fall, with his 621 yards in a game against Whittemore-Prescott setting a single-game record as he totaled four of the five-highest passing yardage totals. He also set a record with 3,516 over nine games for the season, another record with 289 passing attempts over those nine games and a third record for nine touchdown passes in that game against the Cardinals. His 41 touchdown passes total rank fourth. Teammates Gage Long and Nathan Hurst also earned several record book entries on the receiving end of those passes. Long’s 297 receiving yards against Whittemore-Prescott were tied for third most, and Hurst’s 266 against Alcona rank eighth. Long set a single-season record with 1,739 receiving yards, with Hurst sixth all-time at 1,321, and Long’s 14 receptions against the Cardinals and 70 for the season also rank second on those respective lists. Hurst set a record for longest 8-player kickoff return with a 99-yarder against St. Helen Charlton Heston. All three are seniors.

Peck was one of the first MHSAA 8-player champions, claiming the title in 2013, and Cody Abrego one of the state’s first 8-player stars. The Pirates were added to the MHSAA record book 52 times, and Abrego 14 times individually. Among the most notable entries for the 2015 graduate were for 462 points scored over his two-season career (ranking sixth all-time), 74 career touchdowns (sixth), 2,202 rushing yards in 2013 (fifth) and 35 rushing touchdowns in 2013 (sixth). Current senior Caleb Lentner was one of the stars statewide this past season, and he was added eight times including for 50 points scored in a game (ranking second), 272 points for a season last fall (fifth), eight touchdowns in a game (tied for second), 42 touchdowns in a season (fifth), an 8-player record of 2,694 rushing yards from last season, and 38 rushing touchdowns also last fall (fourth). Others to make the individual lists were Nathan Robar, Caleb Dudley, Steven VanConant, Kyle Abrego and Nathan Neihaus, Dudley for a record 20 career interceptions over two seasons and VanConant for a record 12 tackles for loss in a 2022 game and 36 tackles for loss for the season last fall. The Pirates also are all over the 8-player team record book, including for a record 97 touchdowns in 2013, a record 5,895 yards of total offense that season, 528 carries, 4,346 rushing yards and 73 rushing touchdowns in 2013 (all ranking second); and 24 interceptions in 2014, which ranks second on that list.

Senior quarterback JR Hildebrand was one of the most dynamic players in 8-player football in the fall in leading Martin to the Division 1 title. He had one of his most exciting nights in a playoff opener against Tekonsha, making the single-game touchdown pass list with six in a 68-6 victory.

PHOTO Mendon’s Jack McCaw (21) eludes a tackle during the 8-Player Division 2 Final in November at Northern Michigan University. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)