TRAVERSE CITY — Alpena has to be getting tired of Traverse City this week.
First, Traverse City West blanked the Wildcats 4-0 Tuesday in soccer. Then TC Central topped Alpena 3-0 on the pitch Thursday.
Now, West finished off the Wildcats week with a 36-22 win on the football field.
With five of its top offensive linemen on the shelf by the third quarter, Traverse City West (4-1, 4-0 Big North Conference) used an assortment of backups and younger players to grind out a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns.
“We lost Connor Hayes and Thiyo (Lukusa) and Jake Cerny,” said running back Grant Balino, who ran 15 times for 137 yards and two touchdowns. “It was pretty tough, but we managed. Our backups came in, they did their job and we did pretty great.”
Hayes had season-ending knee surgery Thursday, and linemen Kaden Gillow and Alec Coolman were also out.
“Five of your top linemen coming back from last year are out midway through the third quarter,” West coach Tim Wooer said. “But a compliment to our juniors and the kids that stepped up.
“That shows the depth we had. Those juniors that came in, those kids competed against Hayes and Coolman and those types of players in practice, and it made them better. We weren’t perfect by any means, but there were some pretty crucial situations where we had to get a first down or a score for insurance — and those were the kids that got it done.”
Though West was outgained by Alpena 377-345, the Titans limited the Wildcats to just 78 yards on the ground. Alpena did much of its damage through the air, as Tyler Pintar led an attack that accounted fro 299 aerial yards, mainly to 6-foot-3 receiver Josh Bell.
“I always say time of possession only counts in an exorcism,” Alpena coach Mel Skillman said. “We played well and stayed in the ballgame. I’m glad it didn’t come down to that phantom touchdown that started the game.”