By ERIC BENAC
News Sports Writer
For 16 Alpena seniors, Friday's game against Ogemaw Heights was the last football game they were ever going to play. Even after a nearly hour long lightning delay, the Alpena fans showed up in droves, ready to cheer on their team. If Alpena won, they would play the spoiler, denying Ogemaw Heights a spot in the playoffs.
News Photo by Eric Benac
Alpena’s Ashton Dever (left) during his school record-breaking 99 yard touchdown run during the second quarter of a football game on Friday at Wildcat Stadium. Kaleb Smith (21) laid down a block on Ogemaw Heights Shane Benjami (8) to open a lane for Dever.
Unfortunately, after four intense quarters of rainy football, the Wildcats lost to the Falcons 42-13.
In spite of this loss, the Wildcats showed a lot of intensity and courage and even rewarded their fans with a piece of school history. Running back Ashton Dever ran for a school record setting 99-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
A teary-eyed Dever embraced his teammates after the game and spoke glowingly of them.
"It's an unbelievable feeling, a great honor," Dever said of breaking the record. "I never wanted to give up on my boys and I wouldn't trade them for anything in the world."
Head coach Jason Dubey was also visibly touched at the end of the game.
"I'm really proud of my team and all the hard work they've done all year," he said.
On the first possession of the game, Alpena was stopped after four quick plays including a quarterback sack on Brady Marwede.
Marwede, another departing senior, had seven successful passes out of 16, earning 139 yards and throwing one interception.
Ogemaw Heights' first drive ended with a 60 yard touchdown pass to Jerome Hunter. Hunter caught three passes for 159 yards. This score put Ogemaw up 7-0 after the successful extra point.
Alpena's next drive ran more smoothly until an interception at 7:15. Ogemaw capitalized in four plays with a 65 yard touchdown run from Brandon Benac for a 14-0 lead.
Benac had 18 carries for 185 touchdowns and three touchdowns.
The next drive by the Wildcats showed a more accurate passing attack including a 15 yard pass to Chandler Bloom and an eight yard run by Dylan Thrasher.
Thrasher had nine carries for 31 yards.
Unfortunately, an incomplete pass on a fourth and nine gave the ball to Ogemaw, but the Falcons didn't capitalize.
Alpena answered with an excellent 30 yard touchdown run from Dever with 9:39 to go in the second quarter.
Dever had 11 rushes and 152 yards to go with his two touchdowns.
This next Alpena touchdown came on its next drive.
On third and eleven on the one yard line, Dever busted out the biggest run of his career and the biggest run in school history. After scoring the touchdown, Alpena went for the extra point, but a penalty led to a missed field goal and a 14-13 game.
This was the closest Alpena got all night to taking charge of the game.
Benac had a 38 yard touchdown with 5:14 in the half and Ogemaw took a 21-13 into halftime.
Ogemaw began the second half with a lengthy drive that ended with a 20-yard touchdown run by Benac on fourth and two for a 28-13 lead. Alpena's Dustin Swider missed a tackle on Benac in the backfield that would have ended Ogemaw's drive.
Alpena punted on its next drive and Ogemaw answered with an 84-touchdown pass to Jerome Hunter. Alpena's defense continued to do well against the run but struggled against Ogemaw's passes and stopping the big plays. Ogemaw kicked the extra point and lead 35-13.
Alpena ran into trouble on its next drive on a few late plays. Kaleb Smith caught a pass on third and 10 that brought the team within 10 yards of a first down. Unfortunately, Tim Atkinson was unable to catch the pass on fourth and 10, giving the ball back to Ogemaw again.
Ogemaw once again showed its penchant for big plays by scoring its last touchdown on a 59-yard run by Hartley. The extra point was good to bring the game to the final score of 42-13. Alpena tried hard its next drive but couldn't deliver, giving the ball back to Ogemaw with 6:28 left on the clock.
Dubey pointed out the problem that haunted the Wildcats all year: the second half.
"We came out tonight and we had a tough competitive first half against a first rate, play off level team," he said. "We shut down a bit in the second half but we still had a lot of big stops against a team that devastated Traverse City West."
After the game, the 16 departing seniors walked up to the sideline and faced the wildly clapping crowd. The seniors had smiles on their lips and tears in their eyes as they bowed and chanted "Thank You!" to the fans who had supported them in a rough season.