- Sponsorship -

One for the record books: team reflects on win

The Central football team marks an amazing year by unveiling its Division 3 state football championship banner

Forest Hills — It was a discussion Ty Hudkins and his friends had in elementary school — winning a state football championship for their school, said Ty, a Central High senior. And they made it happen. 

“Dreams do come true,” Ty said after a February ceremony that unveiled Central High School’s first 2023 Division 3 State Football Championship banner. “I think the best part is that we were all playing together and we got the big win.”

It was a whirlwind of a fall for Central’s football team. On the heels of a devastating loss in the 2022 final Division 3 state championship game, when the team lost to Warren De La Salle 52-13, there was a tremendous amount of pressure of “Ford Field or bust” on the team, said coach Tim Rogers. 

“The thing I’m most proud about is, here are 17-, 18-year-old kids with high expectations for this year and they took everyone’s best punch,” Rogers said. “They were the game circled on (every opponent’s) calendar, and still went eight and one in the regular season and made it all the way back to the state championship game, and this year we won it.”

‘I think the best part is that we were all playing together and we got the big win.’

— senior Ty Hudkins

Challenges and Injuries

The only regular-season game Central lost this past season was to Byron Center, 15-14, in the fifth game of the season.

“It wasn’t that we played badly or anyone made a bunch of mistakes,” Rogers said. “It was just that (Byron Center) played better that day … It was a great shock to our system where we were like, ‘OK, we’re not invincible, and we still can get better’ … and we never lost another game.”

There were also injuries, such as when senior quarterback Mason McDonald broke his toe at Greenville, the last game of the regular season, Rogers said. The team rallied, stepping up their game to cover the loss of McDonald, who found his way back to the field for the final playoff games. 

Senior Lucas Fors, a defensive and offensive lineman, also faced injury to his knee during the season that would result with him learning how to play with a brace. The injury did not lessen his commitment to that state win.

“The first day we came in for summer training, it was a goal (we) set there,” Lucas said. “We knew we could do it. We knew we could get back there and we knew there was going to be a target on our back for everyone to come after us to stop us.”

Returning to Ford Field for the state high school football championship was surreal, considering most of the team thought 2022 could be the first and last time they would get there, Lucas said. But because the team had been there before, he said they knew what to expect and put everything else aside to focus on winning the game. 

A Special Final Season

During the November championship game against Mason High, Rogers said he knew they had clinched the state title when Ty, who played defensive back and wide receiver, caught a pass and kept running the 25 yards right into the end zone despite a Mason player right behind him.  

Ty and Lucas both said they knew it the moment teammate Drew Fortino made a “pick-six” play, where the defense intercepts the ball and runs it back for a touchdown, resulting in six points. That play secured a 27-10 victory for the Central Rangers. 

It was a win that many will not forget, said senior JT Hartman, who played linebacker and tight end.

“We knew we had the talent, and we played tight and really well together,” JT said. 

The game was also special for another reason: It was Rogers’ last game as coach. 

Rogers said his retirement after coaching 30 years was no surprise. Three of his assistant coaches have sons who were seniors on the 2023 team: Ty, JT, and Drew, all of whom Rogers has watched grow from being ball boys to teammates, he said.

“I just kind of knew that this was going to be the last year,” Rogers said. “Regardless of win, lose or draw, the last game was going to be the last game.”

The one thing the players all emphasized was that this championship was a group effort, going beyond the players and the coaches to include the support of parents, school board members and the community. The team proved that by sharing their celebration with the fans at the February trophy ceremony. 

“Once we got presented the trophy … we were supposed to get a picture with the MHSAA staffers, but we didn’t know that and we ran right over to the student section,” Lucas said. “(MHSAA staff) weren’t too happy about that, but we wanted to go celebrate with the school.”

Read more from Forest Hills: 
Teamwork made the dream work for first state win
Getting the bands back together

- Sponsorship -
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma is a reporter covering Kent ISD, Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville, Forest Hills and Comstock Park. The salutatorian for the Hartland Public Schools class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism. Joanne moved to the Grand Rapids area in 1989, where she started her journalism career at the Advance Newspapers. She later became the editor for On-the-Town magazine, a local arts and entertainment publication. Her eldest daughter is a nurse, working in Holland, and her youngest attends Oakland University. Both are graduates from Byron Center High School. She is a volunteer for the Van Singel Fine Arts Advisory Board and the Kent District Library. In her free time, Joanne enjoys spending time with her family, checking out local theater and keeping up with all the exchange students they have hosted through the years. Read Joanne's full bio


Related Articles

- Sponsorship -

Issues in Education

Making Headlines

- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You Live WGVU