ALPENA - The Alpena Wildcats football team may have came out swinging against the Escanaba Eskimoes but they ultimately couldn't execute on any of their promising situations, losing against the Eskimoes 21-0 in their season opener on Friday at Wildcat Stadium.
Coach Jason Dubey was positive in spite of his team's loss.
"I think the kids played hard but they lacked good execution," he said.
Alpena and Escanaba were dead even in the first half. Alpena had a few solid offensive drives that resulted in two touchdowns which were both called back for holding penalties. The first missed touchdown was an especially hard loss as senior Ashton Dever ran nearly 30 yards.
On Alpena's next possession, Jordan Ferguson caught an apparent touchdown pass that was called back on a penalty.
Escanaba came out shaky on offensive in the first half. Their first drive ended prematurely with an Alpena interception by Bryce Blankenburg.
Escanaba then pushed into Alpena territory three more times in the first half without a single score.
The game could have gone anyway at this point, but Escanaba and its senior QB David Falish came out strong. At 2:45 into the third quarter Falish scored Escanaba's first touchdown on a quarterback rush.
Falish led the team in rushing with an astonishing 211 yards on 37 carries. He also connected on five of eleven passes for 33 passing yards. Two of these passes were caught by sophomore Ryan Timler for a total of 15 yards.
Escanaba scored again at two minutes in the fourth quarter with a touchdown pass. They hit the extra point to bring the score up 14-0. They scored again four minutes later with an eight-yard run by Timler.
Alpena's brief offensive fire in the first half dissipated in the second half due to long drives by Escanaba that ate into the defense and tired the Wildcats.
Escanaba had the ball for nearly the entire third quarter after a very brief four-play Alpena drive that ended with a punt.
Alpena had a brief moment of offensive glory after Escanaba's final score. The drive started with a solid kickoff return of 30 yards by Dever. Senior Jacob Kline ran for nine yards on first down with an excellent reverse and a four-yard rush by Dever on the third play brought Alpena in the red zone. However, junior QB Brady Marwede missed three passes in a row with a desperation fourth down pass falling into the hands of Escanaba.
At this point, Escanaba ate at the rest of the clock to win the game.
Escanaba ended up with 23 first downs to Alpena's three. They ran for 61 times for a total of 346 yards. Falish's five completed passes earned the team 33 yards.
Alpena ran 16 times for a total of 51 yards and had three successful passes out of 16 for a total of 13 passing yards. Dever led the team in rushing with 33 yards while sophomore Jordan Ferguson led the team in receptions with one catch for eleven yards.
Dubey highlighted his team's unfortunately timed penalties as one reason his team may have lacked execution and drive in the second half.
"We had two touchdowns called back because of penalties," he said. "That really hurt. And the defense was simply on the field too long. They just got tired."
Alpena is on the road for next week's game. The Wildcats play against Sault Ste. Marie on Friday.