Winless Wildcats aiming to pull off upset over unbeaten Trojans
Two teams that have had complete opposite starts this season meet tonight in a game that will officially mark the second half of this 2020 high school football season for both schools.
Alpena (0-3, 0-3 BNC) travels to Thirlby Field tonight to take on the undefeated, No. 9 ranked team in Division 2, Traverse City Central Trojans.
The Wildcats will face with a tall task against a team that has won convincingly in all three of its games.
“They (Central) obviously have a lot of team speed and for the most part they are a very disciplined team. They’re coached well, they have all of these things, but they have some holes, just like we do so we have to capitalize on where we think they are weak,” Alpena coach Eric Mitchell said. “Don’t get me wrong, this is a fundamentally sound team that is coached really well so their weaknesses aren’t going to show up like some of the other teams that we’ve played, but I think if we confuse them a little bit, I think we’re going to be okay.”
Alpena finally found a bit of a rhythm offensively last week, but came up a bit short, losing to Gaylord on a last-second field goal.
Despite a 30-27 loss, it was a step in the right direction for the Wildcats who were held scoreless through the first two weeks and struggled to move the ball.
Unlike Alpena, the Trojans have had no issue moving the ball up and down the field and lighting up the scoreboard. They have scored at least 41 points in each game, averaging 47.6 points per game.
Central blew out its cross town rival, Traverse City West 53-13 in its opener and eased past Petoskey 49-20 and improved to 3-0 last week to earn a top 10 ranking with a convincing 41-17 victory over then unbeaten Cadillac.
The first three games may indicate that this one could get out of hand considering the Trojans throttled West and the Titans blanked the Wildcats 49-0.
Despite what the first half of the season may indicate, Alpena has found ways to surprise the Trojans and at times hang with the Big North Conference juggernaut.
But the meetings over the past decade have all belonged to the Trojans as the Wildcats enter tonight’s matchup not only hoping to pull off a massive upset, but snap a 10-game losing streak against their rival.
Alpena will have its hands full trying to stop the conference’s leading scorers in Josh Burnham and Austin Bills.
Burnham leads the Big North Conference in passing yards and total touchdowns with 11 while Bills is atop the conference in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. Combined, Central’s dynamic duo has more than 600 yards rushing on the season, which is nearly as much as Alpena has for total offense through three games.
“We have a few plans defensively and we’ve spent hours coming up with what I think will be a really good plan,” Mitchell said. “We have to make sure that we stop jet and force the ball back to the middle of the field and I think if we do that, it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to stop them every time, but we’re going to slow them down. We have to eliminate the big plays. They’re good, they’re coaches well and they’re going to make plays, but so are we. I know we have an idea on how we can limit them, we just have to execute.”
The Wildcats put together an improved ground attack a week ago and finding success on the ground will be pivotal if Alpena stands any chance of knocking off the Trojans.
Quarterback Ryan Voltz is right behind Burnham in terms of conference passing leaders and gave Alpena a shot last week after connecting with Mason Mumford late for a game-tying touchdown. The Wildcats are hoping its ground attack, paced by Charlie Williams, Kadyn Budnick and Dan Savage, can take pressure off of Voltz and the rest of the offense and churn out yardage, while grinding down the clock to give Alpena a true chance to win.
“For us we’ve said we have to get better every week, because Week 7 for us is Week 1 of the playoffs and we have to be playing our best football at that point,” Mitchell said. “This past week we saw the progress. Our offensive line blocked better, we ran the ball harder, our trap was there, we threw the ball with success so we got better last week and that’s really our number one goal this week to make sure we’re getting better and putting ourselves in a position to win the football game.”