The Alpena football team is facing Cadillac tonight in a matchup that may seem like a foregone conclusion, but that may be closer than it appears.
The Wildcats (1-2, 0-1 Big North) may not have a record that shows success, but its first three games have shown subtle signs of improvement. It beat Escanaba 15-7, in a first week upset and nearly defeated Sault Saint Marie at home in a tight 20-14 loss the next week.
Alpena hosts the Vikings tonight at 7 p.m. at Wildcat Stadium.
News File Photo
Alpena’s Jordan Ferguson takes a handoff during a game against Sault Ste. Marie at home earlier this season.
A closer look at the numbers reveals that Alpena has only given up 59 points, compared to Cadillac's 52. The Wildcats have held some powerful teams to low scores.
"They aren't anything we haven't seen before (defensively). They're tough, but beatable, and I think they're a good match for us," senior receiver Dylan Hoes said.
Alpena has a solid ace-in-the hole with Jordan Ferguson, who has already rushed for 237 yards this year and a touchdown.
Tyler Pintar has also come into his own as a quarterback, connecting on 40 passes for 382 yards. Pintar has thrown for four touchdowns. Hoes (113 yards) and Kaleb Smith (87 yards) have been among Pintar's favorite targets.
If Alpena's offensive line can hold off pressure from Cadillac's defense, it should be able to open up some rushing opportunities for Ferguson and can open up Alpena's passing game.
"They (Cadillac) run a 42 front (defensively), while the team last week (Ogemaw Heights) ran a 32. The offensive line is going to have to adjust to that. They're coming along pretty well, learning some new things. We keep adjusting things, trying to find what works best with our specific team skills," Alpena coach Mel Skillman said.
Cadillac (3-0) has already beaten the expectations of many pundits. It lost some size and power from last year's playoff team, but stomped Lansing Eastern 43-25 and squeaked by Bay City John Glenn 21-20 in a come-from-behind win. The Vikings then pulled off a 20-7 win against Petoskey last week.
The Wildcats will have to look out for Cadillac senior quarterback Jalen Brooks, as well as senior receivers Patrick Briggs, Logan Webb and Justin Liptak. Brooks is a running quarterback and last year he picked up 1,736 rushing yards for 29 scores and 700 passing yards for six touchdowns.
If the Wildcats rely on the defensive skills of linebackers Brad Styma and Josh Bell, they may be able to shut down Brooks' rushing and passing attack. Styma is the current team leader in tackles with 31, while Bell has 27.
"We're just going to focus on shutting down the quarterback. He's the source of most of their offense, and all we need to do is shut him down," Styma said of Brooks.
Eric Benac can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.