By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half
GRAND RAPIDS – It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Tate Hallock would eventually wind up wearing green and white.
The Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central senior receiver already has had plenty of success wearing those colors, and he’s always wanted to follow in the footsteps of his family members.
In June, Hallock verbally committed to sign with Michigan State’s football program. He will join his brother Tanner, a second-year walk-on who redshirted last year.
Hallock’s father, Ty, played at MSU from 1989-92 and was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1993. Ty Hallock played eight seasons in the NFL with three teams (Detroit, Jacksonville and Chicago). Tate’s mother, Jennifer, also graduated from MSU.
“I think my whole life I knew I wanted to go to Michigan State,” said the 6-foot-4, 190-pound Tate, who also was recruited by Notre Dame and several Mid-American Conference schools.
“Obviously my brother plays there, so that was a huge factor, and overall the legacy of my family going to Michigan State played a huge role in that, too. My brother and I had a plan when we were younger that we were going to play together there, so I was able to get that opportunity and commit.”
The Spartans will get a playmaker who produced on both sides of the ball last season as the Rangers turned in one of the best in school history.
Forest Hills Central set a school record for wins, finishing 12-1 with the lone loss a shutout by Livonia Franklin in the Division 2 Semifinals.
Hallock had 779 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns a year ago, while also recording 81 tackles on defense.
“He is a threat to score on every down on offense,” FHC coach Tim Rogers said. “He has excellent speed and can go up and take the ball away from most defensive backs. We will move him from free safety to strong safety this season. He’s always around the ball, and he’s a violent tackler.”
Tate Hallock is in daily contact with his brother, who played a major role in FHC’s resurgence two years ago as the starting quarterback.
Tanner Hallock helped lead the Rangers to a nine-win season and playoff berth in 2016.
“We are very close, and I talk to him every day,” Tate Hallock said. “We’re always keeping each other in line, and I’ve learned a ton from him. He was a huge leader two years ago, and he really helped put the program back on track.”
Tate Hallock was just born when his father retired from the NFL, but he’s been around football his entire life.
He credits his father for teaching him the game and providing encouragement when needed.
“My dad has really taught me everything, and he just talks to me about being a leader and playing my role,” Tate Hallock said. “He’s my best motivator and the one I really look up to.”
While Tate Hallock waits for his time in East Lansing, he’s excited to play one more high school season and build off last year’s historic run.
“I’m definitely looking forward to next year, but I’m glad I’m finally done with the recruiting process so I can focus on this year and bringing home something for FHC.”
Hallock will benefit from having his longtime friend around to throw him the ball.
Senior dual-threat quarterback Luke Majick returns to engineer a potent Rangers’ offense. He threw for 1,787 yards and 21 touchdowns last season while also rushing for 840 yards and 15 touchdowns.
“I think it’s very important that we’re both back, but definitely Luke, because you need a quarterback and he brought a lot to us last year,” Tate Hallock said. “I think that will be the key to our success this year.”
Tate Hallock and Majick aren’t just teammates. They’ve known each other since elementary school and have developed a bond on and off the field.
It’s a connection that has enabled both of them to thrive.
“We’ve been best friends since fourth grade,” Tate Hallock said. “I think I’m capable of getting open, and he just knows where I am. We have good chemistry because he’s used to throwing me the ball.”
Majick echoed those sentiments, as both seem to always be in sync.
“We have great chemistry because we’re best buds, and I always know where he is going to be at on the field,” Majick said. “He’s so fast and tall, he makes my job a lot easier.
“Going to Michigan State has always been his dream, and I’ve been to a couple games with him. It seems that’s where his heart’s at, and I’m sure he’ll do great there.”
Tate Hallock hopes to prove last season wasn’t a one-time phenomenon. The Rangers have similar goals in mind, and ending the season at Ford Field instead of watching at home would be at the top of the list.
“I think you should prove something every year, and we definitely showed that last year and the year before,” he said. “The senior class really took a step forward last year, and now we need to take another step forward and show what we are all about.
“We definitely want to go undefeated during the regular season again and get to the state championship, but it’s really a day-by-day process starting with Jenison (on Thursday) and going from there.”
Dean Holzwarth covered primarily high school sports for the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years and more recently served as sports editor of the Ionia Sentinel and as a sports photojournalist for WZZM. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Tate Hallock (3) turns up field looking for yardage last season against Traverse City Central. (Middle) Hallock works to pull away from a Muskegon Mona Shores defender. (Action photos courtesy of The Central Trend.)
Kingsley football fans have become pretty familiar with VIP parking for home games over the last couple of seasons.
They may just start looking for a Kingsley VIP lot at Ford Field. The Stags just captured the MHSAA Division 6 championship trophy with a 38-24 victory over Almont, their second Finals championship and first since 2005.
The road to the Finals started with Kingsley hosting two playoff games, allowing great use of the VIP Parking of Trina’s Touchdown Club. The lot is adjacent to the school’s Rodes Field and provided in loving memory of Katrina “Trina” Kay Schueller, who passed away Oct. 21, 2021, at Munson Medical Center.
Those playoff games filling Trina’s Touchdown Club’s parking lot featured wins over Mason County Central 61-12 and Manistee 37-18, and 51-27 over Gladstone in the Regional Final. Kingsley then traveled down the road and defeated Reed City 37-7 in the Semifinal.
There may not have been designated VIP parking in Cadillac and Ford Field for the Stags’ followers, but there were a lot of VIPs at both stadiums with Schueller on their minds. Pretty much everyone with an affiliation with the highly-successful program or familiarity with the community’s struggles have become VIPs to the Kingsley coaching staff and many others.
Most certainly among the VIPs are head coach Tim Wooer, assistant coach Conner Schueller, his brother Carter Schueller, and his father Mike Schueller.
Conner was set to play the biggest regular-season game of his career the day after his mom passed. It was the regular-season finale against rival Traverse City St. Francis.
Wooer vividly remembers the moments leading up to that matchup, noting how difficult it was for Conner. But his then-fullback and now-assistant coach demonstrated amazing strength and maturity he stills exhibits today.
“He’s in his senior football season, and his mom is in the hospital for four weeks — he’s balancing that playing football and going to school,” Wooer recalled. “And then she passes, and he has the strength to come back to school and deliver the news to our team.
“I am sobbing watching this kid, and I’m just amazed,” Wooer continued. “The next night is Parents Night, and he’s on the field with his dad and brother without his mom.”
Conner still played, making a 4th-down goal line tackle to prevent a St. Francis touchdown. The Gladiators won the game, but Conner won the day, conquering much just to dress for the game.
The Stags went on to playoff wins over Kingsford 28-10 and Clare 32-6. They bowed out with a 33-18 Regional loss to Frankenmuth.
Conner’s junior year of 2020 had been cut short as the Kingsley was forced to forfeit its District Final to Reed City because several players and coaching staff tested positive for COVID-19. The Stags had Ford Field in their minds that season too after playoff wins over 38-13 Standish-Sterling 38-13 and Gladwin 63-16.
Conner, who celebrated his 20th birthday at Saturday’s Final, remembers his playing days and the challenges presented him.
“At the time it was ‘she’s not there,’ especially my senior year she wasn’t there to watch me and finish it out, but I know she’s watching above,” he said. “We were about to go play Reed City my junior year for Regionals, and everyone got sick and it ended our season unfortunately.”
Those challenges were on his mind at Ford Field, and running through his mind when he saw his brother and father in the stands. Carter, now a senior at Kingsley, had been unable to play football due to injuries.
“I thought about my brother – he unfortunately didn’t play this year due to his injuries, and I don’t really blame him for that,” Conner said. “I thought about him as well because it was just me and my dad and my brother now.
“It was very emotional,” Conner continued. “I got a glimpse of him in the strands.”
Carter also was filled with gratitude for the coaching staff for welcoming and mentoring him. He had become keenly aware of the amount of time coaches spend away from family at practices and going through film.
In addition to his family, Conner was thinking about many others in the Kingsley community – and other senior classes like his that didn’t get the chance to celebrate a championship.
He also was thinking about Justin Hansen, a 2003 graduate of Kingsley. Hansen was a captain on the 2002 conference championship team. He went on to become a special-operations Marine sergeant and was killed in action July 24, 2012, while deployed in Afghanistan. Hansen was on patrol as part of an operation in search of a high-value target when his team was hit with small arms fire.
On Saturday, Wooer was wearing a red T-shirt with the letters “USA” on the front and the name “Hansen” on the back. It also featured the number 54, Hansen’s in high school.
Wooer, who turned 54 in July, wore the shirt in Hansen’s memory knowing Hansen would be on the veteran coach’s mind and symbolizing Hansen’s presence with the team at Ford Field.
Wooer wants to make sure Hanson is never forgotten and reminds the soldier’s family the entire community remains behind them.
“I believe it is part of our job as a community to show our love to this family and help in any way possible to help them get through this process,” Wooers said. “After the funeral, we all went about life.
“We certainly still think about Justin and feel the pain,” he continued. “But nothing like a family does.”
Hansen’s tragic passing led to the creation of the annual Patriot Game in Traverse City in 2012 while Wooer was coaching Traverse City West. The game features crosstown rivals West and Traverse City Central every year and strives to honor veterans, first responders, active duty military, and area heroes who died while serving their country.
Saturday’s win over Almont left Wooer emotionally exhausted after all the preparations to do it right for the senior class, the school, the Kingsley community, the Schueller family and Hansen. Collectively, they’ve really become more like a family to the Stags coaching staff and many, many others.
“In terms of emotions, there is no doubt Justin was on my mind throughout the game,” Wooer said. “Trina and Conner have been – those are two huge pieces.
“And, a lot of my thoughts are with the seniors,” he continued. “You want to win the game, but also it is your last time with them.”
Wooer has learned a lot from his former players and coaches over the years. He’s become close friends with many of them, going back to his early days of coaching as a student-teacher at Elk Rapids. He also coached at Farewell and Traverse City West, the latter from 2008-2017 after a first tenure at Kingsley. He returned to Kingsley in 2018.
Schueller is among several former players and coaches who have been on Wooer’s coaching staffs over the years. Several continue today.
“I could give you lots of other stories about kids I have had,” Wooer said. “There comes this transition where they turn into such amazing men, you catch yourself every once in a while saying, ‘I want to be like him.’
“You get this huge smile on your face because you’re so proud of them, just like a mother or father would,” Wooer continued. “A coach always looks at his players like they’re part of his family.”
In addition to Conner, current assistants with long-term relationships with Wooer are Tom Kaleita, Kyle Smith, Ryan Zenner, Dan Goethals, Josh Merchant, Jordan Bradford, Steve Klinge, Connor Schueller, Mike Arlt, Larry Mikowski, Bobby Howell, Rob Whims and Jason Morrow.
This year’s seniors were Jon Pearson, Eli Graves, Skylar Workman, Gavyn Merchant, Max Goethals, Evan Trafford, Bode Bielas, Grant Kolbusz, James Person, Caleb Bott, Trenton Peacock, Noah Scribner and Gavin Dear. They and the coaching staff will be the center of attention as the community celebrates the football team at 7 p.m. this evening in the high school gymnasium.
The seniors probably won’t need VIP parking tonight. But if it would help, Conner would surely make arrangements to utilize Trina’s Touchdown Club. He’d have to add a shuttle though as Rodes Field is about a mile away from the school.
“It feels amazing — I don’t think it really hit any one yet, but I am sure it will,” Conner said. “After we won, it is truly something – it is something else I can’t explain.
“The seniors finally won it the way they were supposed to,” he continued. “It was a good class of seniors.”
Tom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Kingsley students support their classmates during Saturday’s Division 6 Final at Ford Field. (2) Stags assistant coach Conner Schueller watches from the sideline during an Almont run back. (3) Kingsley coach Tim Wooer, in red, prepares to present the championship trophy to his team including Schueller, far right. (4) Trina’s Touchdown Club welcomes members to the VIP lot adjacent to the Kingsley stadium. (Ford Field photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos; touchdown club photo courtesy of the Kingsley football program.)