Alpena football team hopes to rebound from OT loss tonight
ALPENA — Alpena High School football coach Eric Mitchell posed a simple question to his team on Monday after a frustrating overtime loss to Sanford Meridian last week.
“How many people are still pissed off?”
Every hand in the room shot up, Mitchell said.
The Wildcats (1-2, 0-1 BNC) hope to use their frustration from that loss to get back in the win column when they host Cadillac tonight in a Big North Conference contest.
Game time is 7 p.m. at Park Family Field at Wildcat Stadium.
After two non-conference games in its first three weeks, Alpena will turn its attention to the meat of its conference schedule with games against Cadillac, Petoskey, Gaylord, Sault Ste. Marie and Escanaba over the next five weeks.
First up is the Vikings — an original Big North Conference member and a team Alpena hasn’t beaten since 2019. Mitchell said prior to the season that he expects tonight’s game to be a physical one, but to win, he said the game plan is simple: Alpena needs to play better. That means avoiding penalties, taking advantage of defensive miscues and executing in all facets of the game.
Cadillac’s last three wins over the Wildcats have come by an average of 30 points and the Vikings are looking for another win to get them a step closer to a fifth consecutive playoff spot.
“We have to play better than we did last week,” Mitchell said. “Monday, I asked how many people were still pissed off and every hand went up. We’re frustrated. We’re ready to be extremely competitive and (ready to) go be physical this week.”
To get a win over the Vikings and get back to .500, Alpena has to stop the Vikings (2-1, 2-0 BNC), specifically quarterback Charlie Howell, from getting comfortable.
The strong-armed senior lit up Alpena for five scores last season and has factored into Cadillac’s two-game winning streak, with conference victories over Escanaba and Sault Ste. Marie.
“I think their quarterback is quite good to be quite frank. He’s a tall kid,” Mitchell said. “We play a lot of good quarterbacks, but he moves in the pocket extremely well, so we have to be extremely disciplined and make sure we don’t give him run lanes and moreover, we’ve got to be disciplined on the back end too.”
On offense, Alpena won’t know until today whether quarterback Jake Zann is healthy enough to play, which means Kaleb Donajkowski may get another start under center.
Zann missed last week’s game with a lower body injury.
Donajkowski rose to the occasion last week, tossing three touchdowns while also making plays with his feet.
“I thought Kaleb did great…I’m extremely thrilled with the way he played last week,” Mitchell said. “He hit open receivers, he was extremely smart with the football, he tucked it when he needed to tuck it, he threw when he needed to throw. Kaleb did everything we asked him to do.”
Alpena 40, Sanford Meridian 26
The Alpena High JV football team moved to 2-1 last Thursday with a 40-26 victory over Sanford Meridian.
The Wildcats took a commanding 20-6 lead into halftime, following three scores from Thorin Rogers, a blocked extra point attempt by Aidan Aube, and a timely safety from defensive lineman Henry Wirgau.
Late in the game, Alpena attempted to hold off the Meridian comeback while leading 34-26. Facing 4th and 2 with approximately 1:30 left in the 4th quarter, the Wildcats needed a first down to seal the victory with the Mustangs void of timeouts.
With key blocks from Colt Walter, Frederik Holm, Alex Winfield, and Eddie Prue leading the way, Rogers took the fourth down handoff 64 yards for a game-sealing score.
Rogers had a career day scoring six touchdowns in total across offense, defense, and special teams. The running back scored four rushing touchdowns of 27, 60, 64, and 77 yards, accumulating 277 total yards on the ground behind a stout offensive line.
Following the Wirgau safety, Rogers also returned an ensuing punt 57 yards for a score. Finally, Rogers intercepted a second half pass at Meridian’s 1-yard line and raced 99 yards for six points.
Altogether, Rogers turned in 455 all-purpose yards to lead the Wildcats to victory. Rogers also led the charge defensively with 7.5 tackles followed by Henry Wirgau and Eddie Prue at six apiece.
The JV Wildcats play at Cadillac tonight.