After a week full of anger, emotion and plenty of bulletin board material to motivate the Alpena High football team, the Wildcats entered Friday’s contest ticked off and played that way to start, blocking a punt and taking an early lead.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, as the game went on, quarterback Charlie Howell and the Cadillac Vikings proved to be too much as Alpena fell by a final score of 53-23 on Park Family Field at Wildcat Stadium.
The opening seconds belonged to the Wildcats as (1-3, 0-2 BNC) they forced Cadillac (3-1, 2-0 BNC) three and out and blocked a punt, recovered the ball at the Vikings 14-yard line and on the first offensive play, Alpena quarterback Jake Zann scrambled around and found Johnny Rensberry in the end zone to give the Wildcats a 7-0 lead just 44 seconds into the game.
“We set the tone early with big hits, blocking the punt and scoring the touchdown and after that on offense, we got in our own way. We were starting behind the sticks and could not establish the run game and that was a huge piece. We tried to run, but we could hit nothing big on the ground today,” Alpena coach Eric Mitchell said. “Cadillac had at least twice as many offensive plays, but that was our offense’s fault, not our defense. We had a couple kids get banged up, but it’s next man up and we all should be able to tackle at this point in our lives.”
Cadillac slowly got into a rhythm offensively on their next possession, but a fourth down pass attempt from Howell was intercepted by Carter Stark.
Despite having all of the momentum early, the Wildcat offense was stagnant and failed to get anything going while Howell and the Cadillac offense started heating up.
The Vikings tied the game with 1:53 left in the first quarter after Howell tossed a four-yard touchdown to Gavin Goetz.
Cadillac took a 9-7 lead after pinning the Wildcats at their own one-yard line and a knocked Alpena back in their own end zone for a safety.
Howell extended Cadillac’s lead to 16-7 after using his legs to rush for a five-yard score.
After another Wildcat punt, Cadillac added another score with 35 seconds left in the half when Connor Vermuelen plunged his way into the end zone from four yards out.
Alpena showed no quit as it marched down the field and got a 31-yard Gabe Glawe field goal as time expired to stay within two scores, trailing 23-10 at the break.
Cadillac extended the lead to 30-10, scoring on its first possession of the second half.
The Wildcats continued to scratch and claw and found the end zone for what would be the final time as Kaleb Donakowski bounced outside for a one-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 30-17, but there was no slowing down Howell and the Vikings who, after a sluggish start offensively, scored a touchdown on six straight possessions.
Howell finished another strong performance against Alpena, going 15 of 26 passing for 274 yards with a pair of touchdowns through the air and another on the ground.
Zann finished with 193 yards on 13 of 20 passing and a touchdown through the air and on the ground. John Kurowski and Easton Srebnik led the Wildcats with 68 and 61 yards respectively.
“I thought we did a decent job maintaining them early on, but we didn’t do enough on offense,” Mitchell said. “We ran out of gas in the second half and we ran into a couple of mismatches with their taller receivers making plays, but we had way too many missed tackles tonight.”