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Wargel, Vining shred Wildcats in BNC opener

News Photo by Jonny Zawacki Alpena wide receiver Brady Niedzwiecki (1) outruns a Petoskey defender after catching a pass during the second quarter of a Big North Conference football game in Petoskey on Friday.

PETOSKEY — The Alpena High football team was fully aware of what Petoskey’s offense was capable of with dynamic playmakers Gavin Wargel and Rippin Vining.

It’s one thing to be aware, but it’s another to be able to stop or even limit Petoskey’s duo.

Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they had no answer for Wargel and Vining. The duo combined for over 300 yards rushing and accounted for five touchdowns in the game as they led the high-powered Northmen to a 35-14 victory over Alpena in Friday’s Big North Conference opener in Petoskey.

The Wildcats (0-3, 0-1 BNC) got off to their best start of the season after Mason Mumford intercepted a pass from Wargel on the first play of the game. Four plays later, Jake Zann threw a 36-yard touchdown to Luke Young on a perfectly executed wheel route on fourth down to give Alpena an early 7-0 advantage.

The lead was short lived as Petoskey (3-0, 1-0 BNC) answered just on play later when Vining took a sweep around the outside and raced down the sidelines for a 58 yard score to tie the game.

Alpena had a pivotal drive stall out at the Petoskey 10 yard line late in the first quarter and the second quarter belonged to Wargel and the Northmen.

He scored three touchdowns in the quarter, including a 61-yard touchdown, a three yarder and two yarder, all up the middle as Petoskey took a 28-7 lead into the break.

“We really dropped the ball in the second quarter. We played way better tonight and that’s the tough part. We played physical and we played hard all night,” Alpena coach Eric Mitchell said. “We got off to a better start which is something we’ve been focusing on, we have to put four quarters together and tonight the second quarter really hurt us.”

The Wildcats played inspired in the third quarter and slowed Petoskey’s offense down, despite losing starting middle linebacker Reggie Rambus to a concussion.

Alpena cut into the lead with 18 seconds remaining in the third quarter as the Wildcats executed a hook and ladder with Zann completing a 10-yard pass to Mumford, who pitched the ball back to Kadyn Budnick who raced 44 yards down the sideline and reached pay dirt to cut the lead to 28-14.

“We all hate losing. At halftime we were down 21 points and we could have put our heads down and said let’s just get the heck out of here, but we played our butts off,” Mitchell said.

Despite getting helped off the field in the third quarter with an ankle injury, Vining put the Northmen back up 21 with early in the fourth quarter with a five yard touchdown.

Coming off a 200-plus yard and four touchdown performance last week, Vining ripped off 167 yards on 16 carries and a pair of touchdowns.

Wargel added 160 yards on 19 attempts and found the end zone three times.

Not only did the Wildcats lose their conference opener and drop their 11th consecutive game, Alpena lost its signal caller. Zann suffered an injury to his collar bone that may force him to miss the remainder of the season after he posted 139 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions on 11-for-30 passing.

“We suffered some tough injuries tonight. We lost Reggie (Rambus) in the first half and then Jake (Zann) finished off a hard run by putting his shoulder down and it looks like we may have lost him for the year now, which means we’ve now lost a pair of quarterbacks already,” Mitchell said. “I’m proud of the way the kids played tonight. For the first time all year, we played a physical, tough, fundamental football game. Next week we have to redraw a few things and get ready to go.”

The Wildcats will host Cadillac next Friday.

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