Best of the Best Part 4: Ithaca, as good as advertised

ithaca high school football

Pewamo-Westphalia senior Owen Schafer turned in one of the top performances on the 225 lb. bench press combine test.

The Lake Michigan Football Report made its fourth stop on the “Best of the Best” Football Combine Tour on Friday night at Ithaca High School, home to the three-time defending Division 6 state champion Yellowjackets. With everybody and their brother — and even the Sherriff — coming out to watch the day’s events, the hometown kids didn’t disappoint.

Ithaca quarterback Travis Smith, a Toledo commit, lived up to the hype by displaying a strong arm, great mechanics, and the ability to consistently hit receivers in-stride. At 6-2, 200, he looked and played the part of Division I player all night, and if he keeps developing, he could end up being a steal for the Rockets when it’s all said and done.

The guy he’ll be handing the ball off to this season was quite impressive as well. Senior running back Bryan Shaw showed great feet and good balance throughout drill work, and consistently got open in the one-on-ones. At a very solid 5-11, 220, he could still change direction with ease and will pack a punch when hitting the hole.

On the outside, Ithaca’s Logan Hessbrook (nephew of head coach Terry Hessbrook) may be the most underrated receiver in the state. Good size (6-3, 195), great hands, he won every battle for the football in Friday’s one-on-one drills. Hessbrook’s claim to fame thus far has been saving the team’s state championship hopes when Smith went down with an injury in the title game. Hessbrook filled in at QB and the Yellowjackets clinched their third consecutive ‘ship. Soon, though, the senior will simply be known as a Division I wide receiver prospect.

Another Ithaca receiver who stood out was St. John’s transfer Josh Hafner. He ran good routes, made defenders miss, caught everything near him, and played with an effervescent competitive spirit. The 6-2, 175 senior is a great addition to an already loaded team. Hafner also performed well through the testing portion, turning in top-tier scores at each event (4.69 40, 6 reps at 185, 33.1” vert, and a 4.11 pro-agility shuttle – possibly an all-time Lake Michigan Football Report Combine record).

The Yellowjackets also had some young talent on the rise. Backup QB/WR Jake Smith, soph brother of Travis, showed a strong arm and was bursting at the seams with potential. When he grows into his body, Ithaca should have another great QB on their hands. Another ‘Jacket who caught our scout’s eye was 2016 linebacker Jace Demenov. With good cover skills and great football instincts for such a young player, he has a big upside. With all this talent, it’s no wonder that Ithaca’s Coach Hessbrook had a smile on his face all day.

As good as the talent was provided by the hometown team, the event also drew talented players from around the state. Grayling’s Jake Swander has been working all summer with a Detroit-based coach and it showed. 6-0, 195 Swander turned in his best performance out of any of his appearances at our events. Like many quarterbacks, he won’t blow you away with his testing numbers, but he was accurate all day and looked comfortable both in the pocket and on the move.

6-5, 210 WR Lane Simon from Pewamo-Westphalia showed well all day with a performance that drew the imagination to his potential at TE. He consistently high-pointed the ball and ran a respectable 4.74 over 40 yards. His size and athleticism should win college coaches over. Also at receiver, Fruitport senior Shawn Knox Jr. was not big at 5-8, but he was elusive and caught everything. He was more quick than fast (4.24 shuttle, 4.79 40), but could be a nice slot receiver at the next level.

Two young running backs who turned heads were Troy Athens’ Kevin Hazen and Central Montcalm’s Trenton Braman. Both 2016 prospects played with soft hands and good vision.

On the defensive side of the ball, senior linebacker Brad Fall of Marion turned in a performance worthy of the “best of the best.” At 6-0, 215, Fall clocked the camp’s fastest 40 (4.65 on a grass field), performed well in the drill work and was a beast in one-on-ones with pass break-ups and interceptions. College coaches may be sleeping on Fall, but they better wake up.

Complete results from this combine and all tour event combines will be posted on this website next week. The #LMFRTour resumes action on Monday, July 15, with its fifth and final stop at Stevensville-Lakeshore High School. Please note that this is the only camp that does not have a 6:00pm start time. Players will take the field at 7:00pm. Player check-in and walk-up registration will begin at 6:00pm.

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