Alpena High football head coach Eric Mitchell knew the importance of bouncing back in Week 2 after a disappointing performance in the season opener. Despite last week being far from perfect for the Wildcats, they were effective and gritty enough to overcome three turnovers, a blocked punt and a fourth quarter deficit to earn that all-important first victory and gain some much-needed momentum heading into a Week 3 showdown with what may prove to be the most talented and best team on their schedule this year, Whitehall, in a game that will be played at Ferris State University Friday night.
The Wildcats understand that they must clean up the turnovers and play much better, in fact it may take a near perfect performance to upset a Whitehall team loaded with talent that returns a handful of players from a team that finished 8-3 a year ago and is currently 2-0, having defeated last seasons Division 4 state-runner up, Hudsonville Unity Christian 54-26 and the Vikings defeating Hastings 41-30 last week.
Whitehall is averaging over 47 points per game through two weeks. The Vikings have talent and experience on a high-powered offense, anchored by three returners on the offensive line, with senior tackle Winton Napier headlining the group up front. Junior quarterback Kyle Stratton has weapons at his disposal with seniors Nate Bolley and Jaiden Altgilbers. The Vikings have a three-headed monster in the backfield with Trenton TenBrock, Darnell Mack and Jackson Cook.
The Alpena defense made a huge improvement in Week 2 after getting shredded in the opener, but the Wildcats will have to take their defensive play to another level to try and limit what is going to be an explosive Whitehall offense.
“Whitehall is a good team. They’re coached well and they are looking to score on long plays, so our focus this week is making sure we keep the ball in front of us and not getting beat on the long touchdowns, because a lot of their points this season come on big plays,” Mitchell said. “We’re a good team, but we can’t keep beating ourselves and so far through two games there are so many self inflicted wounds that we cannot have this week. For us, this week its not exactly playing perfect, but mistake free.”
Offensively, the Wildcats moved the ball once again and showed they have potential to put points on the board if they can limit mistakes and finish off drives.
Quarterback Jake Zann threw for 284 yards in last weeks win, threw a touchdown and scored the game-winning touchdown with a sneak late in the fourth quarter.
Brady Pagels and Brady Niedzwiecki combined to catch 14 of Zann’s 20 passes for 220 yards. The ground game was effective as Kaleb Donajkowski ran for 83 yards and a 25-yard touchdown.
The Wildcats will need all of their offensive weapons to be at their best to keep pace with the Vikings.
“This week is good all around. Good for the kids, good for the schools and we’re really excited for the kids,” Mitchell said. “We’re playing a team that is one division below us that many expect to win a state championship. That’s huge and gives our kids a challenge and more importantly, playing at a college, you know Ferris State will have their staff there and being in Big Rapids which is an easy place to get to, there may be other coaches and schools there watching too. For our kids, they need to realize the bell is ringing and it’s time to play. There will be a lot of eyes on us this week so we just need to be ready to play our best.”
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