The Alpena football team has experienced a lot of ups and downs this season, but as the Wildcats take the field for the final time, they're hoping to end the year on a good note and send their 19 seniors out as winners.
Alpena hosts Gaylord at 7 p.m. tonight at Wildcat Stadium.
"It makes us more excited that we have a chance to win this week," Cade MacArthur said. "It gives us more inspiration to play hard."
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Members of the Alpena football team run out on the field before the start of a game against Cadillac earlier this year. The Wildcats host Gaylord at 7 p.m. tonight at Wildcat Stadium in their regular season finale.
Alpena's senior class includes MacArthur, Dakota Patterson, Tim Atkinson, Elliot Zarins, Brady Marwede, Kaleb Smith, Chase Beauvais, Tanner Goebel, Jay Dutcher, Jacob Barsen, Evan Hamp, Bobby Kowalski, Terry Lemcool, Jake Meyers, Felix Suszek, Austin Houchin, Austin Hawks, Zach Barlow and Ryan Day.
Playing Gaylord to close out the season is a welcome senario for Alpena (1-7) as it aims to snap a seven-game skid since beating Escanaba in its season opener. The Wildcats have played teams close for the first half of many games, but haven't been able to put the pedal down once the second half begins. A win tonight would give the Wildcats their best finish since 2010.
"We just have to leave it all on the field and give it our all," Evan Hamp said. "We're excited and we want to get that W for our seniors."
One area the Wildcats are hoping to improve in tonight is the passing game. Alpena had just 80 passing yards last week and are averaging 135 yards a game in conference play.
Learning a new offense under first-year coach Mel Skillman has been a challenge, but its seemingly become a little easier by the week.
"It's becoming like second nature to us," Jay Dutcher said. "Everyone's got it down, now we're just working on the little details. We need to show we can go out there and win."
The Blue Devils (0-8) are in danger of finishing their second straight winless season, but they've also contended with a tough schedule that included non-conference opponents Traverse City Saint Francis and Standish in back-to-back weeks. Gaylord has scored just 62 points this season in Will Cleaver's return to the head of the program.
Whichever team wins tonight will likely have one of its highest scoring games of the season. Alpena has managed just six points in the last three games and Gaylord has been held to just 14 points. MacArthur said Gaylord runs a spread offense similar to Alpena's and the Wildcats will be trying to stop Blue Devils quarterback Steven Fitzek, who likes to move the ball with his feet as well as his arm.
Regardless of tonight's result, MacArthur and Alpena's other seniors want to make the most of their final football game.
"It's a realization that's hard to explain. It makes you sad, but it makes you glad for what you did have,"MacArthur said. "That bond that you have with your teammates, you're not going to get that anywhere else."
James Andersen can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.