Wildcats aim to improve red zone play vs. Marquette | Information, Sports activities, Jobs

News File Photo Alpena junior Kaleb Donajkowski runs for a short gain during a game against Saginaw Heritage last week at Park Family Field at Wildcat Stadium. The Wildcats host Marquette at 6:30 pm tonight.

ALPENA — The Alpena High football team had its chances to score in its season opener last week — four of them in the first half alone in fact.

But the inability to capitalize inside the red zone kept Alpena off the scoreboard and on the wrong side of a 53-0 loss to Saginaw Heritage.

The Wildcats hope to change their fortunes tonight as they host Marquette in a game scheduled for 6:30 pm at Park Family Field at Wildcat Stadium.

“We have a sense of urgency this week for sure. For us, it’s be gritty and be more disciplined than them,” Alpena coach Eric Mitchell said.

Alpena showed flashes of playmaking ability last week, gaining more than 200 yards through the air and gaining some yardage on the ground.

But penalties and other factors stalled multiple Alpena drives, including one that moved the Wildcats from a first-and-goal situation inside the 10 yard line back beyond the 30 yard line.

“There’s things we did right our first week, but there’s a lot we did wrong. We were in the red zone a lot and didn’t score. That’s what we’ve got to work on,” Alpena senior Colt Gray said. “We’ve practiced a lot in the red zone and we’re ready for (tonight). Sometimes you’ve just got to think about what you’ve got to improve on, focus on it, and improve on that.”

On the other side of the trenches, Marquette hopes to jumpstart his offense tonight as well. The Redmen dropped their opener to Traverse City West, 7-0, last week.

West connected just once — on a third quarterback touchdown pass — but it was all the scoring it needed as Marquette was limited to just 74 yards of offense and quarterbacks Jaxson Jurmu and Jack Quinnell struggled to hit their receivers.

The Redmen graduated several players from last season’s high-scoring, 7-3 playoff team, but Mitchell knows Marquette has the potential to make big plays at any time in his offensive system.

“They’re going to be different than last year for sure…They run the same offense that they’ve always had…they run a lot of motion, a lot of jet and a lot of power,” Mitchell said. “It’s similar to what we saw last week, (a) similar style offense.”

Mitchell said the Wildcats played better than the final score indicated and the team has refocused its efforts this week, knowing that if it executes well this is a winnable game.

That includes playing penalty-free football and cashing on opportunities on offense, especially after big defensive stands.

Alpena trailed 20-0 after one quarter last week after making several key stops to slow a fast start from Heritage, but couldn’t convert on offense on the ensuing drives.

One team’s offensive struggles may continue tonight, but the Wildcats are ready to do everything necessary to make sure it isn’t them.

“When we play fast, play strong and read our keys, we’re a good defensive team. It takes all 11 guys and when all 11 guys do their job, we can stop anybody,” Gray said. “They struggled against West to put points on the board and we saw they struggled to get to the linebacker level, so we’re going to try and take advantage of that and shut them down. I know they can make plays; we just have to match their intensity and stop them.”

Marquette has been a fixture on Alpena’s schedule for the last several seasons. The Redmen won the most recent matchup — 49-14 at Marquette — last season.

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