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Wildcats earn second straight shutout victory

News Photo by Jonny Zawacki Alpena’s Jack Cook (17) tries to avoid Tawas defender Jordan Finley (28) during the first half of a boys soccer game on Wednesday at Park Family Field at Wildcat Stadium.

New guidelines made Wednesday’s soccer matchup between Alpena and Tawas a bit different, but the result was much of the same for the Wildcats as a lone second half goal was enough to lift Alpena to its second straight shutout victory and helped the Wildcats improve to 5-1-1 on the season after Alpena topped the Braves 1-0 at Park Family Field at Wildcat Stadium.

Mike Clark’s score with 32:29 left in the game was all the scoring Alpena needed.

The Wildcats maintained pressure throughout the course of the game and were in control from the opening whistle. 

Alpena had an early scoring chance 10 minutes into the game, but the Braves defense and goalkeeping was up to the task throughout the contest as they created traffic and denied a lot of chances the Wildcats had in the opening half.

“Credit Tawas, I think they played very well defensively and they got in front of a ton of shots, almost like a hockey team blocking shots. We were a bit unlucky, but they also played well defensively and we need to be a little bit better in and around the penalty area,” Alpena coach Tim Storch said. “We had a ton of free kicks and a ton of corner kicks. We should really feast off of those and we didn’t so that’s where we have to become better. It was 1-0 and we outshot them 11-1. It’s a little concerning. Credit to them, but we have to be better finishing.”

The Wildcats kept applying pressure and had another scoring chance just miss at the midway point of the opening half as a long shot from 20 yards out struck the crossbar.

Tawas’ first and only real scoring opportunity came with 15 minutes left in the half on a corner kick, but Alpena keeper Matt Diamond deflected the ball in the air and gathered the rebound.

The Wildcats’ final scoring chance in the half came with nine minutes remaining when Jacob Beaubien deflected a header just over the Tawas net off of a corner kick and both teams went into the break scoreless.

“I think we have to be a little more aggressive going to the ball in the air and our precision needs to be better on the corner kicks and our placement needs to be better,” Storch said. “I think at times we didn’t play fast enough around the penalty area and we took too many touches and let them converge on us and that’s maybe why they had so many blocked shots.”

The lone goal of the game came just over seven minutes into the second half when the Wildcats continued to pressure and displayed great ball movement and got the ball to Clark  who found the back of the net for the games’ deciding goal.

Alpena had opportunities to add to the lead, but couldn’t convert. Defensively, the Wildcats allowed very few balls to come close to their net the entire night, despite the challenges of adjusting to the first night of the new executive order which required all players to wear facemasks during competition and on the sidelines.

The order, announced on Wednesday, requires that athletes must wear face coverings at all times during training, practice or during competition.

“We gain momentum with the win, but there’s a lot of uncertainty with this whole executive order crap. I had to sit out some of my players that their parents rightfully don’t want them playing. This governor I think is more interested in playing politics than understanding the physiology of athletics,” Storch said. “You can’t run four to six miles or run a cross country race at a hard pace or three to four miles in a soccer game effectively while wearing a mask. There’s oxygen depletion and I don’t think she understands the physiology of that or doesn’t care to. Every parent has a right to look out for the safety of their son or daughter and I have to look out for the safety of our athletes and it’s something I’ve never had to worry about before and it’s concerning. I’m playing without one or two of my starters because the oxygen depletion aspect and parents making decisions based on their best health. There’s a lot of uncertainty.”

 Alpena will open Big North Conference play today when the Wildcats host Petoskey at 7 p.m.

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