Alpena ready for playoff challenge against Midland
A long wait to return to the postseason ends for Alpena tonight.
It’s been 16 years since the Alpena High Football team has played in a postseason game.
Despite Alpena’s 16th straight losing season, this group of Wildcats will travel to Midland tonight and run onto the field for a first round Division 2 pre-district matchup against the Chemics.
Despite an 0-6 finish to the regular season, Alpena gets the opportunity to compete in a playoff game due to the shortened season and postseason rules put into place by the Michigan High School Athletic Association.
The Wildcats enter the playoffs as the No. 8 seed and will face a tall task of taking on the district’s top seed in Midland.
“Midland has plenty of speed and it’s hard to replicate speed, but we pulled our entire JV team up this week and it’s helped everyone get a much better look at practice. Everyone is going to see that this is a different type of intensity this week, but what we’ve echoed over and over again is, it’s the playoffs and anything can happen,” Alpena coach Eric Mitchell said. “We understand this week is going to be a challenge, but it’s a matchup that we like.”
Despite being unable to earn a victory during the regular season, Alpena can at least take with them into tonight’s game the fact that they have made improvements in the final two weeks of the season.
The Wildcats came up short twice, dropping a pair of one-score games.
The Wildcats have improved defensively over the past two weeks, only allowing 14 points in each of the final two games, but the offense has been stagnant all season.
Alpena has scored two touchdowns in a game just once in its six games, while scoring six points each the past two games. It was also shut out on three separate occasions during the season.
The offensive struggles could spell disaster tonight as the Wildcats take on an undefeated Midland team that is firing on all cylinders.
Unlike Alpena, the Chemics have had no problem piling up points week in and week out. Midland has scored at least 30 points in all six games this season and scored 40 or more in all but one game.
“We feel like we match up better against this team than we would have against a few of the other teams in our district. They are going to want to run and they have some extremely talented players, but we have to be ready and willing to challenge them and control the line of scrimmage,” Mitchell said. “The pressure is not on us. All of the pressure is on Midland. They are coming in expecting to win this game and maybe not wanting to show everything they have and they may simplify their game plan which may be better for us. The more I look at it, this may be a matchup that we like.”
Along with a potent offense, Midland features a stingy defense that has only allowed six points a piece the past two games and has a pair of shutout victories this season.
The Chemics love to run the ball and their game plan tonight will likely be to overwhelm Alpena in the trenches and be the more physical team like they were a week ago in a dominant win over crosstown rival Midland Dow.
The Chemics ran for 300 yards last week and held their opponents to just 33 yards and passed just twice in a win that secured them a league title and top seed in the district.
The Wildcats will be tasked with the challenge of stopping Midland’s Drew Johnson, Eli Gordon and Al Money who will look to make life difficult for the Alpena defense tonight.
The trio was responsible for a majority of the points and yardage in the Chemics’ win last week.
Midland has playmakers on defense including senior middle linebacker Chase Mahabir who is the leader of a defense loaded with talent. Nick Dauer and Ty Smith are both impact players on the defense side of the ball and this defensive trip will be aiming to shut down Alpena.
“We’ve had our chances in three games, but we made mistakes and beat ourselves in three of those last four games,” Mitchell said. “For us, it’s just executing and doing the little things right.”
The Wildcats are not only hoping to pull off what would be a remarkable upset, but Alpena is eyeing its first playoff victory in program history.
Despite an uphill battle, the Wildcats see this as another opportunity to try and build the program.
“This is a huge program building opportunity for us because we haven’t made the playoffs in many years. This will allow kids to understand that things really do change this time of the year,” Mitchell said. “We’re really looking forward to a playoff football week and it’s a great opportunity. It’s a greater challenge, but for us it’s a great opportunity and I’m glad our entire program gets to be a part of this.”