Mistakes caught up with the Alpena football team at the wrong time on Thursday.
Despite holding a slim lead at halftime, the Wildcats surrendered 24 points in the fourth quarter against Escanaba and dropped their season opener to the Eskymos 24-18 at Wildcat Stadium.
Logan Lamb had 101 yards rushing on 27 carries and accounted for two touchdowns, running for one and passing for another.
News Photo by James Andersen
Alpena’s Jordan Ferguson, middle is tackled by Escanaba defenders during a football game on Thursday night at Wildcat Stadium.
Escanaba scored on its first drive of the final period and then found paydirt on its next two drives.
It was a stark contrast to the first half when the Eskymos punted twice, threw an interception and turned the ball over on downs.
Instead the team bared down and attacked the Wildcats on the ground and through the air while the Wildcats made some costly mistakes.
"This group of kids is really a family. Nobody got down on each other, they picked each other up," Escanaba Jim Hansen said. "At halftime, I went to my kids and I said, 'The defense is playing great, I've got to get the offense going.'"
Evan LeToureau's 26-yard field goal early in the second quarter gave Alpena a 3-0 lead, which it took into halftime. After a punt on its first drive of the second half, Alpena took an 11-0 lead when Tyler Pintar hooked up with Dylan Hoes for an eight-yard touchdown. LeTourneau added a two-point conversion after an option pass from Pintar.
Pintar was 20-of-32 through the air for 203 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Hoes finished with nine catches for 118 yards and Jordan Ferguson had three catches for 36 yards. Ferguson also shouldered Alpena's workload on the ground, finishing with 88 yards on 20 carries.
From there, the game belonged to Escanaba. After a turnover on downs by Escanaba, Alpena got the ball back on its own 1-yard line but managed to fumble two plays later. The turnover undercut an impressive defensive effort from the Wildcats on the previous drive after they forced a turnover on downs when they stopped Escanaba on four attempts from the 2-yard line.
The Eskymos needed just three plays to get on the board as Sean Bissell scored on a three-yard run with 8:11 left in the third quarter, cutting the score to 11-6.
Alpena punted on its next drive, Escanaba marched eight plays from Alpena's 47-yard line and ended the drive with a 13-yard pass from Lamb to Ryan Wendt for a touchdown and a 12-11 lead with 2:42 left in the game.
"We just made too many mistakes. You can't make that many mistakes against a good team and expect to win," Alpena coach Brian Tippman said. "The kids played hard and fought right to the end, but we've got to eliminate the mistakes."
The Eskymos weren't done yet. After another Alpena turnover on downs, Lamb scampered to the end zone from 11 yards out to put Escanaba ahead 18-11 with 1:51 left. Escanaba iced the game in the final minute when Alec Slaga intercepted a pass and returned it 45 yards for a score.
"The kids decided they were going to take over the football game and for the most part they did," Hansen said. "I was pleased with the competitiveness."
Alpena finished with 16 first downs to Escanaba's six. The Wildcats also were outgained the Eskymos 331-324.
Lamb was 7-of-15 through the air and also threw an interception to Dylan Hoes in the first half. Corey McInerney led Escanaba receivers with two catches for 47 yards.
The Wildcats found one last stroke of offensive magic in the final minute of the game when Pintar found Nick Lee for a touchdown and the final 24-18 score.
Alpena plays at Sault Ste. Marie next Friday.
James Andersen can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.