Crashing the party

Trojans spoil Alpena homecoming with 51-26 victory

News Photo by Jonny Zawacki Alpena’s Robert Sheldon (2) attempts to shake off Traverse City Central tackler Landon Case on the opening kickoff of a Big North Conference football game on Friday at Wildcat Stadium.

The Alpena football team came out with a new look in their home greys and had a homecoming crowd behind them on Friday.

But the end result was more of the same as the Wildcats suffered a loss to Traverse City Central for the seventh consecutive season as the Trojans came in and crashed the homecoming party with a 51-26 victory at Wildcat Stadium.

Early in the contest, Alpena (2-5, 1-3 Big North) fed on the energy from a ruckus home crowd and the Wildcats put together one of their best quarters of the season to open the game.

Alpena took its opening possession down the field behind a strong running attack that the Trojans had no answer for early. Logan Guthrie ripped off a few big runs on the opening drive and eventually found the end zone from three yards out to give the Wildcats an early 7-0 lead.

Central responded with a scoring drive of its own on the ensuing possession as quarterback Tobin Schwannecke raced in from nine yards out to help the Trojans tie the game at seven.

Alpena continued running the football in the first quarter and regained its seven point lead when Eric Troy went 13 yards untouched into the end zone.

Despite forcing a Central turnover after recovering a fumble around midfield, the Wildcats were unable to take advantage and turn it into points and the Trojans woke up in the second quarter.

Schwannecke threw a 37-yard touchdown to Jacob Harrison to help Central tie the game back up at 14 and Schwannecke tossed another as he threw a jump ball into the corner of the end zone to the 6-foot-5 Bowen Brunner to put the Trojans on top and take a lead they continued to build on.

After taking the lead with 49 seconds left in the first half, Alpena went three and out and were forced to punt. The momentum seemed to change after the three and out when the Wildcats had a punt blocked that Central turned into three points on a field goal with four seconds left as it took a 23-14 lead into the break.

“I think the final minutes at the end of the half when we made a few mental mistakes really hurt us and we can’t make those. Those were big pieces of the game and those are things that I need to correct and that’s on me,” Alpena coach Aaron Sims said. “We never really recovered from that. We kept playing hard, but giving them a nine point lead at the half that definitely put us back a little bit. It was a big turning point, going into the half down nine instead of being down six.”

Central came out in the second half and wasted no time building on its lead. Schwannecke ran for his second score of the game just 40 seconds into the second half to put the Trojans up 30-14 and Central was far from done as it added another score less than three minutes later when Moswen Kirksey ran a 10-yard touchdown on a jet sweep to extend the Trojan lead to 37-14.

The third quarter was dominated by Central and on the first play of the fourth quarter, it took a 44-14 lead when Schwannecke recorded his fifth touchdown of the night, this time on a seven yard run.

After allowing 37 unanswered points, the Wildcats finally got back into the end zone when Zach Suszek raced in from 29-yards out to make the score 44-20 with 8:20 left in the game.

The Trojans went over the 50 point mark with 3:13 left when Alex Theophilus scored on a 14-yard run to give Traverse City 51 points.

With 2:21 remaining, Suszek gave the homecoming crowd one final thing to cheer about as he broke free for a 74-yard touchdown run for the final score of the game.

“We’re never going to be a chuck and duck offense. We’re not built for third and long, we’re built for third and short and when we have plays that go for a negative loss it definitely puts us behind so we have to make sure we execute,” Sims said. “These guys still have two games left and we have been talking about it the last few weeks, we can win every single game. It’s just a matter of us executing physically and executing mentally. If we do those things I think we have as good of a chance as any to win next week.”

Alpena was led by Suszek who had 151 yards rushing on 10 carries with two touchdowns. Troy had 10 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown and Guthrie also had 71 yards and a touchdown on 18 attempts.

Schwannecke ran for 122 yards, threw for 96 and had five total touchdowns, two through the air and three on the ground.

Alpena will travel to Petoskey for a Week 8 matchup with the Northmen on Friday.

Jonny Zawacki can be reached via email at jzawacki@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5690.