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Wildcats prepared for tough test vs. Petoskey

Alpena High football coach Eric Mitchell and his staff hardly need to remind their players what’s at stake in the next two weeks.

Win their final two games and the Wildcats have a chance to earn a playoff spot and finish with a winning record; their first since 2004 on both accounts.

“We’re well aware of it. We mentioned it a little bit on Friday night. We knew what this week was going to mean,” Mitchell said. “They want it and we don’t have to remind them much.”

Alpena (3-4) certainly has the talent and motivation to pull off such a feat, but the Wildcats aren’t looking past Friday’s road test against Petoskey.

Game time is set for 7 p.m.

The Northmen enter Friday’s contest with a 2-5 record, but Mitchell knows records are usually irrelevant in this game. Three seasons ago, Petoskey stumbled to a 1-8 record, but its lone win was against Alpena. The Northmen have in fact beaten Alpena every year since 2007, a stretch that spans 12 games.

The playoffs are out of reach for the Northmen, but the Wildcats are still expecting a high-energy game from Petoskey during its Senior Night.

“We’ve been saying that all week: no matter what the records are, we’re going to get their best game,” Mitchell said. “If we prepare for anything less, we’re in trouble.”

Records aside, Mitchell said he isn’t expecting a pretty game this week and said the Wildcats may have to grind out a win.

Petoskey won last year’s matchup 23-21 and fans might be treated to another fight to the finish Friday.

“It’s making sure we know exactly to expect. They definitely try to out-man you and they play blue collar football. We’re going to have to play blue collar football in a different way,” Mitchell said. “To use a hockey analogy, it’s about who’s going to go to the dirty areas.”

In hockey, the dirty areas refers to the front of the goal and attacking the net to try and score. On Friday, it’ll mean winning the battles in the trenches, on the offensive and defensive lines.

Mitchell has already prepped his linemen for a tough test this week and he’s confident they can get the job done and make all the necessary plays that don’t always show up on the stat sheet.

Senior lineman Isaac Wohlford is among Alpena’s leaders in tackles with 23 tackles and also has two sacks and six tackles for loss. Brady Oliver has a pair of sacks and four tackles for loss and Allen Johnson has three tackles for loss.

“It’s not a pretty week. It’s not a week to pad your stats,” Mitchell said. “There’s going to be double-teams and triple-teams and we’ve been telling them all week they need to play selfless team football.”

Alpena will need a top-notch performance from its defense to slow down a Petoskey offense that gained more than 230 rushing yards last week and has a multi-faceted rushing attack that includes Brody Woods, Mason Doe-Nimphie and Jarrin Kelly.

On the other side, Petoskey will rely on its defense to slow Alpena’s 1-2 rushing punch of Eli Winter and Jordan Schultz, who’s expected to play after leaving last week’s game with an injury.

The duo has combined for more than 1,300 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns this season.

Winning the battle in the trenches will be important for the Wildcats, but so will hanging on to the football. Alpena has battled turnover issues all season and had several more that cost it last week against Traverse City Central.