Wildcats determined to bounce back against Sanford-Meridian

There wasn’t much to celebrate over the holiday weekend for the Alpena High football team as the Wildcats are coming off a 49-0 Week 2 shellacking on the road in Marquette.

Now, the Wildcats (1-1, 0-1 BNC) return home to Park Family Field at Wildcat Stadium, hoping to get back on track against a winless, Division 7 opponent in Sanford-Meridian (0-2) on Friday at 7 p.m.

“They (Sanford-Meridian) do some things well, but also struggle in other areas. They’re very physical, especially in the secondary, but I like our matchups up front. For us, we know that we have to run the ball with some authority and we have to start strong,” Alpena coach Eric Mitchell said. “They have a bunch of guys that play both sides of the ball and don’t come off the field much, so we need to start fast, get a lead, put the pressure on and hopefully this is the week we’re able to put our foot on someone’s throat.”

On paper, this appears to be matchup that Alpena not only should win, but needs to win. Rarely have the Wildcats entered a contest playing the role as favorites, but playing in front of a home crowd against a much smaller school that is winless, this is a game Alpena must have and the unusual pressure is on them to win and improve to 2-1 before entering the heart of their Big North Conference slate along with an upcoming schedule featuring more difficult tests ahead.

“Staying within ourselves will be a huge piece. We need to run the ball to open up the passing game and defensively, we have to do a better job of tackling. Our number one focus this week is on defense and not so much on the other adjustments,” Mitchell said. “If we can make tackles in the open field and at the point of attack, I think they’ll have a hard time moving the ball. We need to start fast, fly to the ball.”

After a stellar start to the season which featured a 27-3 lead over Flint Powers Catholic in the opener, the last six quarters have been dreadful for Alpena as they’ve been outscored 79-7.

The Wildcats need to rediscover their play from the first 24 minutes of the season and carry that into Friday night. The opportunity is certainly there as Sanford-Meridan has struggled offensively scoring just 21 points through the first two weeks after falling 26-7 to Bullock Creek in Week 1 and coming up short against Shepherd in a 27-14 defeat last week.

The Mustangs will rely on their playmakers on both sides of the ball as Alpena will look to wear down the undermanned Sanford-Meridian squad as the Wildcats will have much more depth and a fast start could go a long way for Alpena coming away with a convincing victory.

“I think we’ve moved the ball well, but we just have to limit our mistakes, especially the mistakes that aren’t forced. It’s been us beating ourselves over the last six quarters. It’s frustrating as a coach,” Mitchell said. “We know we have the ability and we understand that we have some pressure on ourselves this week. Winning Friday provides us with a bit of wiggle room, not much, but some. We have to prove to ourselves that we are better than what we have played thus far. We just need to go out and prove it and have a heck of a Friday night. We know this is a must-win if we want to play in Week 10.”