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Return to the Gridiron: Alcona’s 2016 team

Alcona runnning back Brock Franklin

News Sports Editor James Andersen is taking a look back at football teams from the last 10 years, offering his view of the best team from each of the nine schools in The News’ coverage area in the span.

Preseason Outlook: Alcona coach Jason Somers: “We’ve actually committed to a couple of new things this year where we’re going to run the ball more often and do what we’re good at instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.”

Final Record: 9-2

Season in Review: Alcona was short on numbers in 2016, but not short on talent with 12 returners among the players on its 18-man roster. Alcona was coming off a playoff year and looking for another postseason berth. Ultimately, this group of Tigers reached a point only one other previous Alcona team had reached.

Alcona stumbled out of the gate with a shocking loss to Tawas, but the Tigers rebounded quickly. Alcona toppled Hillman, Rogers City and Au Gres in dominating fashion, defeated Au Gres and then easily beat Oscoda, Atlanta, Lake City and Mio on the way to a 9-1 regular season record.

The Tigers took care of business in a Division 8 pre-district game, toppling Au Gres 48-26. That advanced the Tigers to a district final matchup with Frankfort–a spot that only the 2013 Alcona team had reached. Alcona nearly had the game won, but a late touchdown–it came with 13.8 seconds left–by the Panthers tipped the scales in their favor and ended Alcona’s season.

More than a dozen Alcona players earned all-North Star League honors and six different Tigers–Brock Franklin, Devon Mills, Jaden Bartz, Cody Schram, Damion Stewart, Ray Betz–were named to the All-Alpena News team with Franklin being chosen as the Player of the Year after rushing for 2,496 yards and 40 touchdowns.

James’ take: I’ll admit, this was a difficult choice since the 2013, 2016 and 2017 Alcona teams were all very good. The 2016 team however, gets the nod from me here for two reasons: the explosive playmaker that was Brock Franklin and their final playoff game.

Alcona has had some very good, very talented running backs in the last decade, but Franklin simply had big-play ability at all the right times. Week after week, he carved up defenses and saved one of his best performances of the season for last, rushing for 218 yards and all five of Alcona’s touchdowns against Frankfort. Couple that with an experienced quarterback and one of the best offensive lines in program history and Alcona was tough to hang with.

The loss against Frankfort was arguably one of the most painful playoff losses I’ve ever seen and it didn’t take long for the tears to start flowing afterward. I know games aren’t over until the final whistle, but Alcona was less than a minute away from beating a perennial playoff power and earning a heck of a program-building win. A very special season that won’t soon be forgotten.

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