The Alpena football team has had a rough couple of weeks, dropping games to Cheboygan and Traverse City Central and scoring only one touchdown in the process.
Tonight is a good chance to turn that streak of bad luck around against Petoskey at 7 p.m. at Petoskey High School.
The Northmen (4-3) have a solid roster of players, but are just a game over .500. The Wildcats, in spite of some tough play, are 1-6 on the season.
What can the Wildcats do to help turn the tide against Petoskey?
"Petoskey likes to run the ball a lot, similar to Cheboygan's offense. They like to run it down your throat and win the battle up front. If we can win the battle up front, hopefully we can have our linebackers fill and get to the spots (defensively) to make plays," Alpena quarterback Tyler Pintar said.
Petoskey is a heavy running team with three backs making up most of its yardage. These backs are senior Chase Ledingham, junior Kurt Boucher and sophomore Nick Mesnard.
The Northmen often rely on blocking fullback Connor Reed to protect quarterback Evan Whitmore.
Shutting down these runners will be key for Alpena's defense.
"If we can make our reads and fill our gaps, we should be able to contain the inside. Shutting them down on the inside forces them to go outside (the line) and our linebackers will be able to shut them down there," linebacker Brad Styma said.
Offensively, the Wildcats will need Pintar to be on the top of his game and work well with receivers like Josh Bell and Kaleb Smith. If the Wildcats can go to the air successfully against the groundbound Northmen, it might be able to throw Petoskey for a loop.
If Alpena can dazzle the Northmen through the air, it might open up the running game for running back Jordan Ferguson.
"Offensively, we're gonna go for a lot of outside passes. That'll force the linebacker to go after receivers and since they play man-to-man, it should open up some gaps for our running game," Ferguson said.
A win against Petoskey would make Alpena a spoiler of sorts. A loss would push the Northmen to 4-4 and force them to win their season finale against Ogemaw Heights in order to have a shot at the playoffs.
It would also set up the potential for a 3-6 season for the Wildcats, were they to beat Gaylord in the last week of regular season play. A 3-6 record would be Alpena's best showing since 2010.
Eric Benac can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.