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Miscues, penalties doom Wildcats in loss to Petoskey

News Photo by Jonny Zawacki Alpena running back Charlie Williams (4) hurdles past the offensive line and past the outstretched arms of Petoskey defender Rippin Vining (6) during the first quarter of a Big North Conference football game, Friday on Park Family Field at Wildcat Stadium.

Alpena head coach Eric Mitchell has preached the importance of doing the little things in order to be successful.

Doing those little things were important on Friday, unfortunately, the Wildcats were not able to execute what has been preached as Alpena (0-5, 0-5 Big North Conference) was plagued with penalties at critical moments of a 14-7 loss to Petoskey (2-3, 2-3 BNC) in its home finale.

“Unfortunately we lost ourselves in the second half. I don’t know how many penalty yards we had against us, but we had several consecutive drives where it was second and 25 and we are never going to win a game when we have 150+ yards worth of penalties. We beat ourselves tonight and that’s what makes this one hurt so bad,” Mitchell said. “We had our chances. We made really good adjustments in the second half, but we had holding calls, a personal foul call right in front of the ref and you just go how can we be so mindless at times. Don’t get me wrong, there’s moments in the game where you get penalties for playing hard, this was not one of those nights as over and over we just continued to make mistakes.”

Alpena gained momentum early after a punt on its opening drive after forcing a turnover on Petoskey’s first play from scrimmage. Mason Mumford and Charlie Williams teamed up to knock the ball away from Gavin Wargel and Kadyn Budnick recovered the loose ball to set the Wildcats up with terrific field position at the Northmen 35 yard line.

Unfortunately, Alpena gave the ball right back as quarterback Ryan Voltz threw a pass behind Budnick and Wargel made up for his mistake by intercepting a pass.

The Northmen were able to capitalize on the turnover and opened the scoring six plays later when Wargel scampered into the end zone from nine yards out to give Petoskey a 7-0 lead with 5:31 remaining in the first quarter.

The Wildcats tied the game with 9:29 left to go in the first half when they put a nine play, 51 yard drive together that resulted in a six yard plunge up the middle for a touchdown by Budnick. It was set up by strong running from Williams, who paced the Alpena ground attack with 54 yards on 17 carries.

“Kudos to Petoskey, they were on top of our screens the entire night and we made some good plays, but we just shot ourselves in the foot at the worst possible moments,” Mitchell said. “Tonight, we unfortunately beat ourselves more than Petoskey beat us.”

Alpena gained momentum midway through the second quarter as Mumford stepped in front a pass from Petoskey quarterback Patrick Leavy deep inside Wildcat territory, but once again, the momentum quickly faded. Three plays later, Voltz was picked off for the second time as Grant Klepiado stepped in front of a pass as both teams went into the break tied at seven after a sloppy first half.

The story of the second half was time of possession and the ball was controlled by the Northmen. They spent nearly a quarter and a half on offense, putting together lengthy drives, including what eventually went on to be the game-winning drive.

Wargel capped off an 11 play drive, spanning six minutes with a 14-yard touchdown run up the middle. Wargel led the Northmen with 70 yards on 17 carries and a pair of scores.

“They took that opening drive of the second half six minutes. We had a good return, we stalled out and they got the ball back and then the penalties started happening. They kept the ball away from us the second half,” Mitchell said. “I thought we did a pretty good job of blocking tonight when we weren’t holding and didn’t do some of these other dumb things and I also think Ryan (Voltz) needs to work on getting a little bit more confidence, reading the entire defense rather than just throwing right away. Once again, it’s just the little things.”

Alpena had chances down the stretch and its final three drives had potential to end in points, but costly penalties backed the Wildcats up. After punting with 5:14 left, Petoskey churned out the remaining minutes of the game, not allowing Alpena another chance and came away with a seven point victory to keep the Wildcats winless on the year and winless in conference play.

Alpena will travel to St. Johns next Friday in the regular season finale, which will be a final measuring stick before the playoffs begin in two weeks.

“It’s a tough one to lose in the home final, but I still feel like we’re a good football team, we just have to clean these little things up and understand and hope we can feel that click,” Mitchell said. “Last year it took us a couple weeks. I thought we hit it against Gaylord and we had another chance tonight, so we’re really just hoping that it all just clicks going into the playoffs.”

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