A win they needed

Strong fourth quarter sends Alpena past Escanaba

News Photo by James Andersen Alpena running back Jordan Schultz (7) scores a touchdown during the second quarter of a football game on Friday at Wildcat Stadium. Schultz’s touchdown gave Alpena a 14-7 with about three minutes left in the half. Also pictured for Alpena are Logan Guthrie (34), Wyatt Romero (65) and Brand Secrest.

For the first time in five years, the Alpena High football team got the season off to a winning start.

Logan Guthrie scored three touchdowns, added three two-point conversion runs and the Wildcats defeated Escanaba 30-21 on Friday at Wildcat Stadium.

Jordan Schultz added a touchdown run and Eli Winter had two interceptions for the Wildcats, who scored 16 unanswered points in fourth quarter to overtake the Eskymos for the first time since 2013.

The win also ended a five game losing streak for the Wildcats, who hadn’t won a game since last September.

The season-opening contests between the Eskymos and Wildcats are traditionally close and through three quarters the game appeared headed toward a similar ending.

News Photo by James Andersen Alpena players including Eli Winter (12) run out on the field before the start of a football game on Friday at Wildcat Stadium.

But Alpena had other plans, seizing momentum and making big plays in crunch time to pull out a win against a program that made a Division 4 semifinal appearance last season.

“Escanaba’s a freaking good program. They’re so well-coached. Coach (Dave) Howes, look at some of the stuff he does. He’s just so prepared,” Alpena coach Aaron Sims said. “For us to beat a team of that caliber and go through the adversity we did is good. It was really good for our kids and good for the program.”

Alpena trailed 21-14 after three quarters, but took control of the game from there. The Wildcats got the ball back with 43 seconds left in the third quarter and began a long drive that lasted more than six minutes. Alpena marched 70 yards in 13 plays and capped the drive with a three-yard touchdown plunge by Guthrie on fourth and goal.

The touchdown made it 21-20 with 6:06 left and Alpena went for two rather than going for the tie. It paid off when Guthrie dashed across the goal line to give Alpena the lead for good.

“We’re playing to win, not playing to try to win,” Sims said. “That’s what we’re going to do…with how hard my guys have worked, we’re going to play to win. At the end of the day we just felt like we have several studs in the back field that will block for each other.”

News Photo by James Andersen Alpena running back Logan Guthrie (34) eludes a tackler during the first half of a football game vs. Escanaba on Friday at Wildcat Stadium.

The Wildcats iced the game on the next two drives. Two plays into Escanaba’s next drive, Winter nabbed his second interception and gave the Wildcats the ball at Escanaba’s 15 yard line. Four plays later Guthrie found the end zone for the third time on a one-yard run and an added conversion made it 30-21 with 3:12 left.

Alpena racked up 293 yards on the ground and 324 yards of total offense. Guthrie led Alpena with 122 yards on 22 carries and Schultz had 119 yards on 15 carries.

Eric Troy added 63 yards on 10 carries and quarterback Anakin Sims was 1-for-3 for 31 yards.

An eight-yard touchdown run from Schultz and a conversion from Guthrie gave Alpena a 14-7 lead with 3:36 left in the first half, but Escanaba answered quickly.

The Eskymos marched from their own 24 in just five plays and tied the game after an 11-yard touchdown run from Grant LaMarche.

News Photo by James Andersen Alpena players including George Pilarski (68), Mitchell Pfeifer (54) and Sam Romero (60) celebrate after a successful two-point conversion in the fourth quarter of a football game on Friday at Wildcat Stadium.

“It was a slugfest. In the last couple years it’s been very, very close games. The Guthrie kid is the real deal on Alpena,” Escanaba coach Dave Howes said. “Aaron’s been doing a good job with this program and it’s starting to come along.”

Escanaba got the ball to start the third quarter, but on a long third down around midfield, Winter intercepted Escanaba quarterback Craig Kamin.

After Alpena punted, Escanaba responded when Jared Nash scored on a one-yard plunge. The Eskymos impressed on that scoring drive, converting twice on third down and getting a timely pass from Kamin to Christer Carne, which set up Nash’s touchdown.

Ethan Silverstone added the PAT to give Escanaba a 21-14 lead.

Kamin was 8-of-17 passing for 103 yards and two interceptions. He also led the Eskymos on the ground with 50 yards on nine carries.

Escanaba had 258 yards of total offense for the night.

“Last year we beat Alpena, went to Petoskey, lost a close game and won seven games after that, so you can’t keep your head down,” Howes said. “It’s one game and we’ll see what our team character is made of and move forward.”

Both teams punted to start the game, but Alpena got on the board first when Guthrie scored on a two-yard run with 3:44 left in the first quarter.

Escanaba responded with 8:36 left in the second quarter when a short punt was returned by Kamin to Alpena’s 5 yard line and Joshua Bruntjens scored from five yards out. A PAT from Silverstone gave Escanaba it’s first lead of the night, 7-6.

With a win in hand, Alpena will look to keep its momentum going against Sault Ste. Marie next week. The Wildcats have beaten the Blue Devils each of the last two seasons.

“That first game, it’s so important to get off on a good start and it’s great to just jumpstart the season and get things rolling in the right direction,” Sims said. “The enthusiasm and the momentum and the good emotions coming from this game…the idea is for that to carry over into next week.”

Escanaba won the JV game 44-6 and also won the freshmen game 54-6.