For the first time under head coach Eric Mitchell, the Alpena High football team opened a season with a victory.
Mitchell, in his fifth season, will be coaching his Wildcats onto the field Thursday night at 6 p.m. in Marquette with hopes of Alpena starting 2-0 for what would be just the third time in nearly two decades and first since 2018, when Mitchell was the defensive coordinator for the Wildcats.
“We’re feeling good, we’re healthy still and full which makes us feel really good,” Mitchell said. “Last week was a rollercoaster and in my ten years around the program, that had the looks of a game that we would lose, but instead, we found a way to finish the game and start 1-0 which was huge. For us, we were able to take a sigh of relief afterwards and it was quickly getting prepared and focusing on Marquette and going 1-0 this week.”
Alpena will make the long trip north to take on a Redmen team that is entering Week 2 upset and hungry after being blown out 37-6 by Gladstone in its opener.
Turnovers were a major factor in the lopsided defeat for the Redmen as they turned the ball over five times, throwing four interceptions and fumbling once which played a role in the one-sided contest.
Both teams will be looking to clean up their play as Marquette will be eyeing a bounce back performance, while Alpena is determined to put together four string quarters of football after a disastrous second half nearly cost them a Week 1 victory.
“I won’t say Marquette got humiliated, but it’s certainly not the way they wanted to start their season. We know we’re not going to see them throw the ball as much as they did last week unless the game gets out of hand,” Mitchell said. “Marquette does have a few matchup issues for us with a pair of good and tall receivers that can go up and get the ball, along with a few big offensive tackles. For us, we have to win up front and if we do that, we’ll be just fine.”
The Wildcats got off to one of their best starts to a season in recent memory with a stellar first half performance in which they led 27-3, before a second half full of mistakes made for a much scarier finish.
“We took advantage of mismatches and ran the ball well. If we’re able to run the ball well, we’ll be able to do everything else well and that will be the case all season long,” Mitchell said. “We’re two years into this new look offense and we run a lot of RPO and we’re getting really good at what we do offensively. We saw a different look in the second half and struggled to communicate and adjust, but we’ll be ready this week.”
With a win this week on the road, the Wildcats will have a chance to return home with the momentum of a 2-0 start to their season and a chance to start 3-0 for the first time since the last Alpena playoff appearance in 2004, but the focus for the Wildcats is solely on beating Marquette on Thursday night.
“We rally behind each other and won last week’s game for one another. At no point last week did any of these kids have any fear of the game slipping away, it was total confidence and our attitude is different,” Mitchell said. “When we win, everyone wants to be our friend, when we lose, we hear everything. We’re just making sure we’re doing this for each other and have fun doing it. We have a group of guys that’s determined to win. If we can get this one and come back home unbeaten, it’ll be great for the crowd, great for our program and great for the school.”