Wildcats determined for success in third year under Sims

It has been eight years since the Alpena football team has been led onto the field by a third-year coach.

For Wildcats coach Aaron Sims, this will also be his third year with any program in his coaching career.

Both are hoping now with a sense of stability, success will follow.

Alpena opens the season tomorrow at home against Escanaba and despite the first two years for Sims and the Wildcats not going as well as anticipated, the team is excited about the possibilities for the 2018 season.

“I’m really looking forward to just watching these guys get out on the field and play with the passion and excitement I’ve seen in practice the last few weeks, it’s just been awesome,” Sims said. “This is a group that has really rallied around each other. It’s a bunch of guys that have put in a lot of work and have a lot of fun, we spend a lot of time together so I’m just looking forward to these guys having some success and really kickstarting things here in our third year.”

Many of the athletes on this year’s team are in their third year under Sims and have had three years to try and perfect the Wing-T offense. The Wildcats showed flashes of how dynamic the offense can be, especially at the end of last season.

Alpena returns a talented backfield along with an experienced offensive line. The Wildcats hope that will be a recipe for a lot of offensive success this season.

“We had some success last year, but we really did start off a little slow last year and then midway through we started to pick it up. The biggest thing from last year to this year is you just see a lot growth from the guys as far as really knowing their assignments,” Sims said. “We look so much faster than we’ve ever looked and the guys are just really familiar with what we do and I think that’s really going to go a long way for us this year. We’re at the point now where all of our guys are Wing-T guys and we’re getting pretty effective at what we do. You can just see there are small things that you start to notice and we’re really picking up speed.”

Once again, the Wildcats will be challenged during the season. As always, the opener against Escanaba will be a hard-nosed battle as the last five meetings have been determined by two touchdowns or less.

After opening at home, Alpena will go on the road for three straight games, playing at Sault Ste. Marie, Gaylord and Cadillac.

The Wildcats will return home to play Traverse City West and then play back-to-back Saturday contests when they host Ypsilanti and travel to Traverse City Central.

Alpena finishes the regular season with home games against Petoskey and Chelsea.

“There are no powderpuffs on our schedule and that’s just something that we want. We want to play competition and we want to learn to play against that good competition and that’s just how you get better,” Sims said. “It’s one of those things where you have to be prepared and the kids have to continue putting in time and you just have to be ready to go out and play that upper level of competition. There are no off weeks.”

It’s no secret by now that a key to a lot of Alpena’s success will be the play of senior Logan Guthrie.

A three year varsity starter, Guthrie has verbally committed to play football at Central Michigan University. The Division I talent will return to the Wildcats backfield coming off a season in which he rushed for 821 yards and scored nine touchdowns. Guthrie is also two years removed from a season in which he led the Big North Conference is rushing yards.

Guthrie will be a big part of the Alpena offense and defense as well as he will see time playing both a linebacker and safety position.

Senior Robert Sheldon will also return as one of Alpena’s key pieces in a talented backfield. Sheldon will miss the opener against Escanaba due to a suspension that occurred in last year’s season finale. When Sheldon returns in Week 2, he will look to make an immediate impact.

Seniors Eric Troy and Zac Suszek will also see time in the backfield and give the Wildcats two more dynamic options to turn to on the ground.

Senior Haydn Goebel and juniors Kelley Stark and Anakin Sims will all be relied on to make an impact on both sides of the ball. Seniors Noah Connon, Zac Cramer, Austin Ritter, Matt Grider, Brand Secrest and Nathan McCoy will all likely see significant time on both sides of the ball and senior Kayden Wisniewski will return for another season kicking for the Wildcats.

“The amount of work that the kids have put in and a lot of these guys have worked themselves into talented players. Honestly with the team that we have right now, every guy is going to be important,” Sims said. “Everyone has to be ready and everybody has to be an important piece to this puzzle and be ready to play and compete at a high level when they’re number is called and we have a lot of guys that are going to be able to do that. I think we’re going to start to see an Alpena Wildcat football family that is going out on the field and playing for each other and laying it on for every guy in the room and it’s exciting to see.”