Wildcats hosting Trojans for homecoming

The Alpena football team had every reason to feel good last week after it got back to the .500 mark with a win over Cheboygan.

But the Wildcats will have a tall task in front of them tonight as they host Traverse City Central during homecoming. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. at Wildcat Stadium.

Not only are the Trojans big and fast, they can score and are adept at winning close games. On the way to a 6-0 record, Central has won its last four games by seven points or less.

“They’re a good football team. They’re undefeated for a reason,” Alpena coach Brad Moughon said. “They’ve played some good football teams in TC West and Petoskey, but we’ve got a pretty good game plan and we’re going to execute that game plan and focus on every rep.”

Part of that game plan includes a focus on playing physical and playing sound, fundamental football. Alpena (3-3, 2-1 Big North) did a solid job of moving the ball last week and controlling the tempo of play, but Moughon knows his team will need to do an even better job tonight against the Trojans, who have beaten Alpena each of the last five seasons.

Central was picked fourth in the preseason conference poll after losing a number of playmakers. But the Trojans have hit the ground running in coach Eric Schugars’ first season behind a strong running attack from quarterback Reagan Cotton and running backs Devante Walker and John Pupel Jr. Up front, Central returned an experienced offensive line of juniors and seniors.

Moughon said one of the most important areas of success for Alpena tonight will be on the offensive line. Alpena’s line features just one senior in Ben Strong and the Wildcats will need their line to not only give quarterback Lars MacArthur time to throw, but also to open holes for Alpena’s backfield.

Alpena’s running game has improved in recent weeks and aside from Week 5 against Traverse City West, the Wildcats have gained at least 140 yards on the ground in each of the past four weeks.

Wade Roznowski leads Alpena’s backfield with 189 yards on 28 carries and three touchdowns. MacArthur has 125 yards on 65 carries and four scores. The improvement on the offensive line helps MacArthur under center as well. In six games, he’s thrown for 940 yards and eight touchdowns including four in the last three weeks.

“Our offensive line is fairly young and our backfield is fairly young. So they’re starting to get some continuity; the line is understanding assignments better and the backs are starting to trust them more,” Moughon said.

With three games left to go in the regular season, the Wildcats still have a lot to play for even with a tough slate of conference opponents ahead. Moughon has stressed the importance of paying attention to every detail and every rep in practice so that the Wildcats are ready to go on Friday nights. The same goes for tonight’s matchup; if the Wildcats execute correctly, Moughon is confident good things will happen.

“We had a good game last week. We executed our game plan and were able to move the football,” Moughon said. “We still need to shore up a few things, but we’re excited about this week and excited about the rest of the season.”

James Andersen can be reached via email at sports@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.