GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — When it comes to state finals experience, Forest Hills Central will be a little over-matched when they run out on the turf at Ford Field on Friday to face off against Warren De La Salle. The Pilots are appearing in their sixth state finals game in the last decade, but for the Rangers, this is their first state title game since 1994.
Luckily for FHC fans, state championships are not decided by experience alone. Still, Rangers coach Tim Rogers is working to make sure the massive weight of the moment doesn't get the best of his team.
"We're all human. I'm sure that they're going to need to take in a moment. We might start off a little slow, but we'll get to where we need to be," said Rogers, who is coaching in his first state championship game.
"I'm sure I'll have anxiety just like the kids. I mean, I'm not going to deny it. It's a big moment. It's something that you work for your entire career, and I'll remind myself everything that I talked to the kids about — compartmentalizing it and don't let the moment get too big."
The undefeated Rangers will take on a 12-1 Pilots team, whose only loss came to Birmingham Brother Rice in a game decided by one point back in September. They defeated Muskegon in week two 49-16.
"They have a great quarterback. I know he's committed to Cincy and their wide receivers are great. They have great skill at the wide receiver position, and I know their defense has some good guys on it too," said senior defensive back Dominic Schipani.
Senior quarterback Justin Osterhouse says he's never been to Ford Field before, but he doesn't expect the huge stage to impact his play.
"We're going to go in there and just play a normal game like we've been playing all season. And who knows? We'll come out with a win, hopefully, if we do our stuff." he said.
Like the rest of the West Michigan teams playing in the state finals, Forest Hills Central is practicing in indoor facilities this week to get a feel for what it will be like to play at Ford Field.
"The team's been practicing really hard all week, and our coaches have a great game plan. So, I think I think it'll be a lot of fun. I think we'll perform well," said senior safety and linebacker Michael Campbell.
Coach Rogers says his current team is standing on the shoulders of all who came before them, and it would be an honor to bring home a state championship for all the past teams to celebrate.
"It would be a great reward for our entire community. I mean, 11 years ago, when I came here, we were a good football program, but we had a lot of things to do to make it a great football program. And I feel like this is a vindication for all those who were before us, that all the hard work that they put into our program is coming to fruition and it would be great to hand them a state championship trophy," he said.
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