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Wildcats aim to flip the script in home finale

Coming off of one of its worst defeats in program history and still yet to enter the win column, the Alpena High football team enters Friday’s home finale against the Petoskey Northmen highly motivated.

“We were upset after last week and we should have been. I told the guys if that didn’t upset them, then they were playing the wrong game,” Alpena head coach Eric Mitchell said. “We put last week behind us, but we also are motivated from it so that never happens again. This is our last home game tonight and for our seniors, this will be the last time they play on this field and quite possibly play this game again. There’s plenty to play for and be motivated about.”

The Wildcats (0-4, 0-4 BNC) expect a much tighter game tonight when they host Petoskey (1-3, 1-3 BNC).

Game time is 7 p.m. at Park Family Field at Wildcat Stadium.

The Northmen opened the season with a 22-14 victory over Gaylord, but have since lost three straight.

Petoskey will also be motivated coming in, looking to avenge last season’s home loss at Alpena.

The past two meetings between the two schools have been decided by a total of five points as the Wildcats earned an 18-15 win a year ago, while the Northmen edged Alpena 23-21 two years ago.

“We have to come out and play, plain and simple,” Mitchell said. “The feeling at the end of the last game after you get your butt handed to you is something we should all remember.”

Despite the previous two meetings being close, Petoskey has owned the series, winning 10 of the past 11 matchups and at times, the Wildcats’ defense has had problems slowing down Petoskey’s offensive attack as the Northmen have scored at least 30 points in seven of those past 11 meetings.

The Northmen have yet to score over 30 points in any game this season and have surrendered at least 20 points the past three weeks, including 27 unanswered in last week’s loss to Cadillac after holding a 14-point lead.

Petoskey has been hit by the injury bug at running back as Brody Woods went down before the season, Jarrin Kelly and Ian Piehl are both dealing with injuries and Rippin Vining suffered a hand injury last Friday and did not return.

The status of all three are up in the air, but Petoskey hopes to have found something special in junior running back Gavin Wargel, who was the first Northmen this season to go over 100 yards on the season last week as he ran for 105 yards and a pair of touchdowns on just 13 carries.

“This is going to be a battle between two blue collar teams. I expect Petoskey will stick to their scheme, but we have looked at what they’ve done against us in the past just so we are prepared for it,” Mitchell said. “We expect that they’re going to come and try to do what they do against us. I expect them to say we haven’t scored against certain teams and they’ll expect to go out and stop us. For us, we fully expect them to stay within the tackles, whether it’s first, second or third down. We have to contain them and hope we don’t get beat deep.”

Both teams have been doomed by costly mistakes and both Mitchell and Petoskey head coach Gavin Fralick continue to preach the importance of correcting mistakes and doing the little things in order to find success.

Last week for Alpena there was very little that went right. The Wildcats had their two best scoring chances taken away as a pair drives deep inside opponent territory resulted in turnovers as Alpena was intercepted twice.

The inability to move the ball and sustain long drives, while turning the ball over are all results that the Wildcats cannot afford to have if they hope to come out victorious in their home finale.

“At any level if you make more mistakes than the other team, your chances of winning diminish and especially when they’re big mistakes.” Mitchell said. “It’s remembering how to play and doing those little things that we’ve done all week, we just have to make sure we execute.”

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