Skip to main content

"The Climb" profiles how a high school team picked themselves up after a 69-game win streak was snapped


Credit: Bruce Vigneault Photography

If you're not familiar with Michigan high school football, chances are you've never heard of Itacha HS, but the small community outside of Lansing put together one of the longest winning streaks that high school football in America had ever seen just a few years ago, winning 69 straight games and four state titles dating from 2010-2014. I believe that at the time, it was the longest high school win streak in the country.

The loss that ended the streak came in the 2014 state title game against Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (MI) while the Yellow Jackets were trying to capture their fifth straight state title.

Mason Flick, A Central Michigan University student who needed an idea for his final research production project for his Master's degree in Electronic Media Production, decided to reach out to Ithaca head coach Terry Hessbrook shortly after that game to see if he could chronicle the team's journey from state title loss, and the end of the streak, into the 2015 season and the chase for another state title.

Hessbrook admits he was leery about it at first, but was very impressed with the final product.

“I was a little leery at first," Hesbrook told MLive. "He wanted to have complete access to our football program, from practices and games, plus miking up coaches on the sidelines.

“He followed us around with cameras for a year, from state final to state final. It never really bothered us. The kids handled it well. Mason went into the weight room with them, through conditioning, he even went to camp with us. He put in a ton of work.”

So, for the past 15 months, Flick chronicled the team's unique journey to the back of the mountain after the end of the historic streak, and he recently wrapped up the film, which he then sent to Hessbrook to look over. Hessbrook told MLive he's since watched it at least six times, and got emotional two or three different times while watching it.

Below is the trailer for the documentary Flick put together for class, and the full-length feature should be released soon. Flick adds that he's taking it to as many film festivals as possible to share the message with as many people as possible.

Read more about the project here.