Wildcats open up 2020 football season at Cadillac
Three weeks after the original start date, football is back and the Alpena Wildcats and head coach Eric Mitchell are ready to get onto the field and do battle against Big North Conference foe Cadillac tonight at 7 p.m. in Cadillac.
“We’re through the roof excited. We felt like we had a really good summer, we were really building and had a good program going, got through a good first week of practice and then had the rug pulled out from underneath of us,” Mitchell said. “Once we were given the okay, we had 16 practices for our coaching staff to figure out how we would fit everything in. Instead of being really behind, we feel like we’re in a good spot. Our kids responded quickly. We’re excited, we have a really competitive group and I think all of us realize what a blessing it is to have football back and be able to play.”
On Aug. 14, the Michigan High School Athletic Association made the decision to postpone the high school football season, which would have started on Aug. 28. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order on Sept. 3 that effectively paved the way for football return this fall.
This season will be shortened. The Wildcats will pick up the schedule beginning with Week 4 and hit the road for the first time this season.
This year, one win will make a team eligible for the playoffs, despite records. The Wildcats are determined to get that important win tonight and open the season with an important road victory before hosting BNC opponents the next two weeks.
The Wildcats went 4-5 in Mitchell’s first year at the helm and despite losing a handful of important pieces, Alpena has a plethora of talent this year.
The Wildcats return starting quarterback Ryan Voltz who will look to improve on an impressive sophomore season. Voltz has showcased the ability to spread the ball around as Alpena plans to open up the playbook once again with Voltz under center.
Senior Charlie Williams will be one of Alpena’s main weapons and will be used out of the backfield and split out wide as a receiver.
Williams has the shiftiness and speed that could cause problems for opposing defenses if Alpena gets the talented senior out in space.
The Wildcats graduated much of its starting offensive line, but returns much of its defensive line and outside linebacker Kadyn Budnick who will see time on both sides of the ball.
“One of the beauties of high school football is that you have a different team each year. Every year there are questions and this year is no different. We lost a lot of talent and leadership, but I think that made a lot of people step up this summer,” Mitchell said. “We have a lot of work to do with our offensive line, but we’re going to build and communicate.”
Cadillac graduated some key playmakers from last years team, but returns junior Collin Johnston who torched Alpena with three touchdowns and more than 100 yards rushing in last year’s matchup. Like Alpena, the Vikings will return a junior quarterback in Aden Gurden who was an important piece in Cadillac’s rushing attack last year against Alpena.
The Vikings will welcome much of their offensive line back in an option offense that could cause problems.
“Cadillac poses a threat that not a lot of other teams that we play will and that’s because they run the option. They’re obviously getting better and better at it. They have their entire offensive line back with their quarterback and running back, they’re going to be better and we know that,” Mitchell said. “We need to control the line of scrimmage and I think if we do that we’ll be alright, because I don’t think they’re going to out-athlete us on the corners like they’ve been able to in the past. Fundamentally, we have to be solid. We are fully expecting a hard fought football game with the little things mattering now more than they ever have.”
The past five meetings between the two schools have a 17-point difference and the home team has been victorious in each of the last six matchups.
Alpena has a pair of three-point victories including last year’s 41-38 win and another in 2015. Cadillac has a pair of one-point wins in 2016 and 2018–both by a score of 14-13–while Alpena earned a nine-point victory in 2017.
If recent history is any indication on what can be expected of tonight’s season opener, it’s that the home team has the edge in what should be a tightly contested game.