Ready to keep rolling: Wildcats aiming for first 2-0 start since 2004

For the first time in five years, the Alpena High football team came away victorious in its season opener.

The Wildcats (1-0) defeated rival Escanaba 30-21 in a thrilling, hard fought battle at Wildcat Stadium.

Now Alpena turns the page and must focus its attention on Sault Ste. Marie.

The Wildcats travel north of the bridge today to take on a Blue Devils (1-0) team that was also victorious in its season opener a week ago as they shut out Cheboygan and held on to win a 6-0 defensive battle.

Alpena is determined to build on last week’s emotional win, while being the first team in 2018 to find the end zone against the Blue Devils.

“It’s a big game. It’s the first of three straight road games, so we have to go travel well and learn how to play on the road here for the next three weeks and they (Sault) are going to be a tough matchup,” Alpena coach Aaron Sims said. “They’re big and physical inside and they’re coming off of a tough win and they’ll be looking to keep their streak going just like we are. It’s a good matchup for us and we have to make sure we’re ready to play.”

The Wildcats have won their last two meetings against Sault and are undefeated against the Blue Devils under Sims. 

Alpena has had no issue putting points on the board over the previous two meetings as the Wildcats have averaged 30 points against the Blue Devils.

The Wildcats defeated Sault 33-20 two years ago to give the program its first win in the Sims era. Last year was much closer as Alpena built a lead and nearly let in slip away. Alpena led 27-14 with nine and a half minutes left before watching the two-touchdown lead evaporate, but came up with a big defensive stop on a two point conversion with 30 seconds left to secure a 27-26 win.

The Wildcats understand the challenge that awaits them tonight and are by no means looking past the Blue Devils.

“I think they’re going to come out and battle us and I’m sure they’re not worried about who we beat and I thought they beat us up all over the field last year and I didn’t even feel like it was a win after the game,” Sims said. “They’re going to come out and look to continue what they did the previous season and just put it on us for the game and we have to match their physicality and mentality.”

Alpena must be aware of of the Blue Devils’ two-way star Tate Kay.

Kay was the offense last week in the win over Cheboygan, while playing a major role in every facet of the game. Kay scored a six yard rushing touchdown for the lone score of the game.

Sault will face a much taller task trying to slow down a Wildcat rushing attack that had its way with the Eskymos last week.

Alpena had 293 yards on the ground and 324 yards of total offense last week. Logan Guthrie had 122 yards on 22 carries and reached pay dirt three times. Jordan Schultz had 119 yards on 15 carries with a touchdown. Eric Troy added 63 yards on 10 carries and quarterback Anakin Sims did his part and completed one pass for 31 yards.

As if Alpena’s back field wasn’t loaded enough, the Wildcats will welcome back another playmaker this week as Robert Sheldon returns from a one game suspension. Sheldon may see time in the back field and on the defensive side of the football, but will look to make an impact wherever he is on the field.

“I’m looking forward to another big game this week against Sault. We’ve been told not to look past them because last year we came out and weren’t as sharp as we should have been and we’re expecting a battle tonight,” Sheldon said. “I’m not sure what my role will be tonight, but I’m going to do my best to make an impact on the game. I’m just really looking forward to getting back on the field and fighting with the rest of the team.”

Alpena is hoping to pass its first road test of the year and the Wildcats are aiming to start 2-0 for the first time since 2004, which was the last time that the program made it to the playoffs. Sims and the Wildcats understand it’s a one game at a time approach and are completely focused on their opponents tonight.

“It’d be a pretty big step for us to improve to 2-0. It would give us a little momentum heading into Big North Conference play,” Sims said. “First thing is first and we need to focus on the opening kickoff tonight and worry about play number one whether it’s on offense or defense.”

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