For the Alpena football team to have a shot at winning this week, one task remains important above all else.
The Wildcats have to have the ball.
"We have to have the ball. We can't go three and out. Last week we had three plays in the first quarter," Alpena coach Mel Skillman said. "You need a few more than that, so we've changed some things we do so we can try to isolate and keep the ball for a while."
Alpena will try to break a five-game losing streak tonight during its homecoming game against Traverse City Central at 7 p.m. at Wildcat Stadium. The Wildcats haven't won their homecoming game in several years and are hoping a return home after two road games will turn their fortunes.
"Homecoming games are always a little bit tough because there's so many other activities besides the game," Skillman said. "You've got your king and queen and floats, oh and by the way, we're playing a game too."
The Wildcats (1-5, 0-3 Big North) missed opportunities last week against Cheboygan and didn't score until the final play of the game during a 28-6 loss. Alpena gained 300 yards on offense last week, but still struggled. The Wildcats were held to 94 yards on the ground and Tyler Pintar struggled under center, throwing two interceptions.
Central (3-3, 1-2) will be looking to rebound from a tough, grind-it-out loss to Petoskey last week on the road and to improve its bid for a postseason spot. That won't be easy though as the Trojans end the year with games against Ogemaw Heights and conference-leading Cadillac.
The Trojans have done some rebuilding this season after losing several playmakers off a team that went 9-2 last season, but Central has been competitive and new playmakers have emerged. Quarterback Sean Williams had a solid performance against the Northmen, completing 16-of-28 passes for 233 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Ethan Campbell found paydirt four times and had 249 all-purpose yards.
Having seen several Big North opponents at this point in the season, Skillman knows how competitive the league is and tries to prepare his team accordingly each week.
"Everybody plays physical. Everybody lines up toe-to-toe and says, here we come, see if you can stop us. There's not many teams we play that are finesse teams," Skillman said. "They line up toe-to-toe and pound the ball and if we don't pound with them, we're in trouble."
James Andersen can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.