Wildcats hope to end year strong with Senior Night win against St. Johns

Courtesy Photo/Jonny Zawacki Alpena running back Nicholas Geister (12) outruns an Eskymo defending during the second quarter of a football game in Escanaba.

ALPENA — Everything about last week’s win was crucial to the Alpena High football team.

A long trip to Escanaba ended with an emotional and thrilling win and built some much needed confidence and momentum heading into tonight’s regular season finale.

Despite a disappointing start to the year and a 16th full season in which the Wildcats will miss out on the postseason, tonight’s regular season finale against St. Johns is important for a handful of reasons.

Alpena will honor its senior class for Senior Night and the Wildcats will look to end the season on a two-game winning streak, picking up a key win for the program and building a little confidence heading into the offseason.

Tonight marks another opportunity for a Wildcat team eyeing program-building victories as St. Johns enters with a dismal 1-7 record and has struggled offensively all season. The Red Wings enter tonight’s matchup averaging under 10 points per game and have scored just 77 points all season.

St. Johns has lost each of the past four games by two scores or more and have scored just 14 points over that four-game stretch.

Last week’s 26-20 overtime victory for Alpena was the first time this season the Wildcats were able to finish off drives and it paid off for them in the end.

In fact, the Wildcats have seemingly found a bit of offensive rhythm with their short to intermediate passing game.

Quarterback Ryan Voltz has played exceptionally well since taking over midway through the season and the senior signal caller would love nothing more than to end his final high school football game with a win in front of a home crowd on Park Family Field at Wildcat Stadium.

“The kids know they have a lot to play for this week and we’re excited about it. We’re trying to make sure the emotion of this game doesn’t get to us. This is the last week the seniors get to practice, it’s their last game, so we’ve been trying to limit the distractions and just focus on the team that we are playing on Friday,” Alpena coach Eric Mitchell said. “I think we have played better both offensively and defensively over the past few weeks. We’ve been physical and made plays defensively and offensively, we’ve found a good mix of run and pass and we’ve been able to finish drives.”

Voltz has done what is needed, getting the ball in the hands of his playmakers in junior tight end Colt Gray and a trio of talented receivers in seniors Mason Mumford and Luke Young and junior Brady Niedzwiecki.

Senior running backs Kadyn Budnick and Jason Smolinski hope to end their final game in the green and white with a solid performance on the ground thanks to an offensive line for Alpena bolstered by seniors Ryan Ritter, Ethan Johnson, Logan Momrik, and Everett Zann.

Defensively, Anthony Villeneuve, Reginald Rambus, Christian Wicklund, Joseph Blewett, Zachary McDonald, Hunter Liske, and Derred Weitting will look to make an impact in their final game as seniors and secure a win for senior Andrew Dargis who has missed the past few games due to injury and is likely to miss tonight’s game.

“We would be elated to send our seniors out with a victory Friday night. This group, it hasn’t been easy for them since they came into the program,” Mitchell said. “They’ve had to deal with a shortened senior last year, have had their share of frustrating defeats, but to see the way they have played the past few weeks is special and it’s important for all of us, as a team and as a program that we finish this season with a win Friday night.”

The Wildcats will be looking to avenge last year’s 14-6 loss to St. Johns in the regular season finale.


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