WITH VIDEO: Alpena defeats Escanaba 26-20 in overtime thriller
ESCANABA — The Alpena High football team made the long trip to Escanaba Friday knowing the game against the Eskymos was a winnable one.
Nothing came easy, but the long trip back was much sweeter for the Wildcats as they earned their second victory of the season in dramatic fashion, defeating Escanaba 26-20 in an overtime thriller.
“This is a heck of a win. No if’s, and’s or but’s about it, we battled the bus and we played hard tonight,” Alpena coach Eric Mitchell said. “I can not be more proud of how the kids played. This was a big win and a special win for our program.”
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Alpena held the lead much of the night, but the Eskymos hit a big play late in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 20 when quarterback Casey Bray threw a short pass to Karson Krutina, who broke free for a 53-yard score with 4:06 remaining to tie the game.
On the first play from scrimmage in Alpena’s ensuing possession, the Wildcats coughed up the football, allowing Escanaba a golden opportunity to go 44 yards to win the game.
The Eskymos ran nine plays, milked the clock, and with two seconds, sent on Krutina for a potential game-winning 26-yard field goal, but Alpena’s Kadyn Budnik got through the line and blocked the field goal to send the game to overtime.
The Wildcat defense came up big once again in overtime as they kept Escanaba out of the end zone after a key play from Mason Mumford to just get a hand on a halfback pass that looked like an easy score and Bray threw an incomplete pass on fourth and five.
With all the momentum, Alpena handed the ball to Budnick who powered his way down to the one and senior Ryan Voltz accounted for his third score of the night with a quarterback sneak up the middle to send the Wildcats home winners.
“We’ve looked good in losses this year, so tonight, for us to look good and come out with a win feels so good,” Mitchell said.
The Wildcats opened the game with some trickery as they recovered a successful onside kick attempt and took advantage by marching 47 yards down the field with a good mix of run and pass. Alpena opened the scoring on a perfectly designed play action pop pass as Voltz connected with his wide open tight end Colt Gray for an easy, walk-in touchdown from 10 yards out to help Alpena grab an early 7-0 lead.
The Wildcats extended the lead to 13-0 as they scored on their second offensive possession, going 74 yards with a pair of nice runs by Nicholas Geister and Voltz finished the drive with a quarterback sneak up the middle from a yard out.
Escanaba quickly responded and cut into the deficit less than three minutes later when Bray threw a nine yard touchdown to Trent Lawson on a fourth down and six, but Alpena was able to take a 13-7 lead into the half.
“We knew we had to gain momentum early and keep it all night. For us, finishing those drives early were huge,” Mitchell said. “We managed the clock well tonight, finished drives, played physical, and played hard all night.”
Alpena started the second half much like they started the game as they took the first possession of the third quarter down the field on 11 plays and finished yet another drive thanks to a pair of key receptions from Gray, including a stellar one-handed catch.
Budnick capped off the lengthy drive with a five-yard touchdown after Voltz hit Gray on an 18 yard pass on third down that set up Budnik’s plunge into the end zone to give Alpena a 20-7 lead midway through the third.
The Eskymos once again answered the Alpena score with a quick five-play drive that resulted in a five-yard touchdown of their own on a rush from Krutina.
The Wildcats, however, returned the favor after having an extra point attempt on their second score of the game blocked, by blocking an Escanaba point after try to hold a 20-13 lead early in the fourth quarter, which turned out to be just one of many important plays in the game.