ITHACA, Mich. (WLNS) – The Ithaca Yellowjackets have had a flair for the dramatic this postseason. They defeated Fowler 28-27 in the first round of districts, stopping the Eagles on a two-point try late in the game. Then, the Yellowjackets topped New Lothrop 29-28 for the district title behind senior Joe Dawe’s game-winning field goal with just eight seconds left.
The Yellowjackets’ late-game heroics earned them our 6 Sports Team of the Week honors.
“Our kids have a belief that no matter what it takes they’re going to win the game,” head coach Jordan Hessbrook said of the team’s composure in close games. “I think it’s a team that genuinely cares about each other and they want to see their teammates, their brothers do well. I think that’s carried them as things have gotten tough. Maybe it’d be easy for them to say ‘well we had a good run, we had a good year’ but I don’t want to let down the guy next to me. I think that’s been huge for us over the last couple of weeks.”
If you go to an Ithaca football game, you’ll undoubtedly see t-shirts and signs bearing the logo of the “B4 Foundation.” The foundation, which raises awareness and funds for mental health and suicide prevention efforts, was set up after former Ithaca quarterback Brady Hessbrook died by suicide this past winter.
Brady was the son of longtime Ithaca head coach Terry Hessbrook, who guided the Yellowjackets to five state championships and a 69-game winning streak that stretched from 2010 to 2014.
Brady was also the cousin of Jordan Hessbrook, the Yellowjackets current coach, who said Brady’s memory has loomed large all season and throughout this playoff run.
“I miss him every day and I wish more than anything that he was here to enjoy it in person with us,” he said. “But we’ve talked a couple times [as a team], you know, I think especially the last couple weeks. He’s been with us.”
“It’s hung over the team because we’ve just fought for him every game,” added senior Brandon Pass.
Ithaca will face Ubly in the Div. 8 Regional Championship game on Saturday. The Bearcats, like Ithaca, are a perennial power in Div. 8. They lost in the state championship game last season and reached the state semifinals in 2021.