As the Alpena High School football team prepares to open its 2012 Big North Conference slate today against Traverse City Central, one important goal comes to mind for the Wildcats.
They have to slow the Trojans down.
Against Escanaba last week, the Trojans racked up 365 yards on the ground and Alpena (0-2) will be looking to put the brakes on Central's potent running attack as it aims to earn its first win of the year.
News File Photo
Alpena’s Ashton Dever (11) runs the ball during a game against Escanaba earlier this year. Dever will not play for the Wildcats this week after sustaining a concussion against Sault last week.
"They are very talented. Obviously they had a great week last week against Escanaba. Their strength is definitely their speed," Alpena coach Jason Dubey said. "They've got some of the fastest kids in the Big North from track season, they've got three running backs who are really talented, plus a quarterback who runs, so we have to be assignment-ready, we have to make plays and tackle in space."
The Trojans' backfield is led by sophomore Joe Schepperly who carried the ball 10 times for 150 yards and five scores against the Eskymos. Esthon Prater and Central quarterback T.J. Schepperly also have the capability to make plays on the ground.
By contrast, Alpena will be without its lead running threat as senior Ashton Dever will sit out at least one week after sustaining a concussion against Sault Ste. Marie. Dever gained over 100 yards on the ground last week and Dubey will be looking to players such as Dakota Patterson and Jordan Ferguson to make plays in Dever's absence. Dubey also mentioned the Wildcats could go to with a single runner in the backfield and add another target for quarterback Brady Marwede at receiver.
Matt Hamel, Alpena's leading receiver with 72 yards on six catches has quickly gotten acclimated to the pace of varsity football and said his chemistry with Marwede has continued to get better since the days when the pair played together on JV.
Going into today's game, Hamel hopes that the intensity the Wildcats have shown this week in practice will be a sign of good things to come as long as the team continues to work hard.
"We've got to stay stronger. We've got to last throughout the whole game. I think we should keep on doing what we're doing," Hamel said. "We've had a great week of practice, so hopefully that precedes us on Friday night."
Like most coaches, Dubey stresses the importance of every game during the season, but acknowledged that when it comes time for conference games, the stakes are raised and his team's level of excitement is up.
"Everyone's goal, the first one, should be to win your conference. Alpena and Traverse City have a long rivalry. When it was one school, it was the Black and Gold so there's a lot of feelings there," Dubey said. "We're definitely up this week, we've had a good week of practice so we just have to put it all together."