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Wildcats rally comes up short vs. Petoskey

News Photo by James Andersen Alpena receiver Brady Pagels (3) is tackled by Petoskey defenders Aaron Sysko (85) and Adam Jackson (21) after making a catch during the first half of a football game on Friday at Park Family Field at Wildcat Stadium in Alpena.

ALPENA — The Alpena High football team came up short against Petoskey on Friday. The Wildcats lost 24-20, dropping to 1-4 on the season.

Trailing by four late in the game, Alpena’s bid for its first Big North Conference win of the year was ultimately stopped.

With 2:03 left, Alpena got the ball back and was determined to finish the game with a win. After a few catches by Alpena receivers, the Wildcats were set up on the five-yard line with 12 seconds left.

Two costly penalties moved Alpena back, setting it up on the 30-yard line. With one play remaining, quarterback Jake Zann threw up a prayer that Brady Niedzwiecki caught, but he was ruled out of bounds.

“Without a doubt, we battled. We battled for four quarters and we couldn’t come out with the win,” Alpena coach Eric Mitchell said.

Alpena maintained the 20-18 lead at halftime, but couldn’t extend its lead in the second half after interceptions on back-to-back drives.

Brian Pike and the Northmen offense took full advantage of the interceptions. With 3:40 left in the fourth quarter, Pike came down with a spectacular catch over an Alpena defender. Petoskey could not convert the two-point conversion, but the Northmen did gain the 24-20 lead for the first time in the game.

Alpena received the ball to start the game and got off to a great start. Zann completed four passes to start the drive, giving Alpena some early momentum. Kaleb Donajkowski finished the drive with a 20-yard run, followed by a five-yard rushing touchdown, giving the Wildcats an early 6-0 lead.

Defensively, the Wildcats started strong too. After two big tackles for loss, the Northmen were forced to punt, giving Alpena the ball back.

Alpena’s offense continued to move the ball in the first quarter and took a 13-0 lead after a 64-yard rushing touchdown from Donajkowski and a PAT with 1:03 left.

Petoskey fired back at Alpena, scoring a touchdown of its own with 11:19 left in the second quarter. The PAT was blocked by Colt Gray, putting the score at 13-6.

The Wildcats’ defense began to struggle to stop the Northmen for the rest of the half. Petoskey scored another touchdown but didn’t convert the PAT, which only left the Northmen trailing 13-12.

Donajkowski kept Alpena’s strong run game going with a two-yard rushing touchdown a short time later. Alpena extended the lead to 20-12 with another PAT.

The Northmen continued to answer back, as Aaron Sysko caught a critical touchdown before halftime. Petoskey went for the two-point conversion but came up short after Alpena made a big tackle on the goal line.

Donajkowski finished the game with 26 rushing attempts for 167 yards. Brady Pagels finished with 11 catches for 109 yards, and Brady Niedzwiecki had three catches for 55 yards. Zann was 16-35 through the air with 168 yards.

“The biggest thing we need to improve on before we play our next game is cleaning up the little mistakes,” Mitchell said.

Alpena takes on Gaylord next Friday for its homecoming game.

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