[By Anthony Hawthorne, Special to ETSN.fm]

NEW LONDON -- It took the Alto Yellowjackets the majority of two sluggish quarters to get going Friday night at Bradshaw Stadium.

Once they did, they didn’t look back, turning a close contest into a blowout in a 35-9 victory over the Harleton Wildcats in a Class A Division I Region III bi-district matchup. Alto (9-2) plays Hull-Daisetta at 2 p.m. Friday at Lufkin’s Abe Martin Stadium.

Harleton (7-4) turned the ball over five times, four of which came in the second half. Alto's Joe Cruz had two interceptions and a 97-yard fumble return for a touchdown. Yellowjacket tailback Jacolby Whitaker ran for 171 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns, including a 91-yarder. Quarterback Zac Sturns completed 6 of 9 passes for 218 yards and two scores and ran for 57 yards.

Harleton quarterback Taylor Henson completed 10 of 19 passes for 208 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions, while Steven Crump led the Wildcats on the ground with 75 yards on 11 carries.

Harleton led 3-0 early, but Alto took a lead late in the first half to take a 7-3 edge to intermission. Starting at his own 25-yard line 38 seconds before halftime, Alto quarterback Zac Sturns took to the air, finding Whitaker on a swing pass for nine yards before hitting Javie’Ontae Mumphrey on a double move for 43 yards to the Harleton 23-yard line. Sturns then found D’Anthony Richards open across the middle for a 23-yard touchdown with just 12 seconds left in the half.

Harleton took a brief lead on their first possession of the second half on a 30-yard touchdown strike from Henson to Phoenix Young to give the Wildcats a 9-7 advantage. Young had four catches for 107 yards.

Alto answered. The Yellowjackets hit a bomb on their next play as Sturns found Johnathon Pope for 69 yards to regain the lead. Harleton moved the ball right back down the field behind the legs of Campbell Coleman, setting up a first-and-goal opportunity, but Coleman lost the ball on the next play. Alto's Joe Cruz scooped it and scored from 97 yards for a 21-9 lead.

Whitaker added his pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns for the 26-point victory.


ALT                 HAR
Rush yards                229                 158
Pass yards                 218                 208
Total yards                 447                 366
Penalties                    7-60               3-30
Turnovers                    0                      5