Wildcats avoid scare, hold on to defeat Flint Powers Catholic in season opener

The Alpena High football team entered the 2023 season with big expectations and are determined to change the narrative by putting together a winner.

The Wildcats knew a strong start to their season and fast start in the season opener was crucial.
A fast start was much needed as Alpena avenged a disappointing loss last season to Flint Powers Catholic with one of its better first half performances in recent memory and eventually held on for a 34-33 victory over the Chargers after a second half scare, Thursday night on Park Family Field at Wildcat Stadium.

The Wildcats got off to a blazing start and were strong on both sides of the ball. Alpena turned the Chargers over on downs on the games’ opening possession and the Wildcats cashed in on their first offensive possession of the year as quarterback Jake Zann threw his first pass of the year to Easton Srebnik which resulted in a 56-yard touchdown to give Alpena a 7-0 lead with 5:28 left in the opening quarter.

The Chargers coughed up the ball on their next offensive play and Alpena took over at the Powers 27 yard line. Three plays later, Zann connected with Joe Sheridan for an 11-yard touchdown as the Wildcats grabbed a quick 14-0 lead and all of the momentum early.

The Chargers got on the board late in the first quarter as Brady Lendzion kicked a 22-yard field goal to cut the lead to 14-3.

With 1:52 left in the first, the Wildcats wasted little time, using just five plays to go 80 yards and Zann tossed his third touchdown of the quarter, this time with a 22-yard strike to John Kurowski to give Alpena a 20-3 lead after one.

Both teams slowed down offensively in the second quarter as each team coughed up the football, but it was the Wildcats that went nine plays on the final drive of the half and took a commanding 27-3 lead into the break after Zann scored from two yards out on a quarterback sneak.

“We had a pretty flawless first half. Jake (Zann) played great and everything was working well,” Alpena coach Eric Mitchell said. “I’m so proud of the boys for battling through. We made a lot of mistakes that we have to clean up and every mistake we made tonight is correctable. I’m happy they were able to prove to themselves they have what it takes to win. This is going to be a long, fun season.”

Zann finished 9-of-13 passing for 150 yards and four touchdowns, one on the ground and three through the air. Eli Chism finished with 90 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries and Easton Srebnik caught five balls for 96 yards and a score.

The start of the second half was a much different story as Alpena went three and out and fumbled the punt which led to a nine-yard Jack Camara touchdown run to trim the lead 27-10.

On Alpena’s ensuing possession, Zann fumbled the ball and Powers recovered at the four and Chargers signal caller Javonte Ross scampered in from four yards out to cut the lead to 27-17 after three quarters.

“Everything that could have gone wrong in the third quarter, did. They scored two touchdowns and went a total of about 11 yards and that was really why the third quarter got so out of hand,” Mitchell said. “I thought our defense played a lot tougher than we have in the past because our offense really put them in a tough spot.”

The Wildcats failed to find the same offensive rhythm that they had in the first half throughout the third quarter plus and Powers took advantage as Ross broke off a 31-yard touchdown run to begin the fourth quarter to cut the Alpena lead to 27-24 with 10:59 to play.

Ross finished the night with 166 yards rushing and three touchdowns on the ground.

Alpena finally got back in the end zone and in a hurry as the Wildcats needed just three plays to go 53 yards after a huge kickoff return to midfield from Srebnik and it was Eli Chism who broke free for a 38-yard touchdown run to put Alpena up 34-24.

Powers tacked on three more after Lendzion drilled a 37-yard field goal to cut the lead back to one score as the Wildcats held a 34-27 lead with 6:41 to play.

Alpena took nearly five minutes off of the clock, but made a questionable decision to throw on third down with no timeouts remaining for Powers and the Wildcats mishandled the snap on the punt attempt and the Chargers took over at the Wildcat 43-yard line with 1:49 left in the game.

Three plays later, Ross scrambled into the end zone from 26-yards out to come within a point from tying the game, but the Chargers elected to stay on the field and go for two to try and take the lead, but a Ross pass attempt fell incomplete and the Wildcats recovered the onside kick to hang on and avoid a major collapse.

“We were thinking it was third and long and we were not in field goal range and we knew if we got the first down, the game was over and we tried to win the game. I would rather play to win than try not to lose,” Mitchell said. “I told the kids they played 47 and a half minutes of great football, win now. It came down to one play and we needed to make one and fortunatly we did.”