Eight-year head coach Keith Gardner, who led Alto to back-to-back state crowns in 2006-07, has retired, but the Yellow Jackets are loaded for 2013.

Alto offensive coordinator Paul Gould was promoted to head coach in the spring and takes over a team with 16 returning starters that led the program to an 11-3 season that ended in the Class A Division I Region III championship a year ago.

Alto head coach Paul Gould. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

The Jackets finished second in last season's District 10-A Division I race behind San Augustine, but enter the season as the favorite for the district crown.

Among Alto's nine returning offensive starters are perhaps Class A's best backfield: senior quarterback Zac Sturns and senior tailback Jacolby Whitaker. The latter ran for almost 2,700 yards in 2012, when that duo combined for more than 5,000 total yards of offense. Sturns will once again have a big target in Anfernee Black and a veteran offensive line blocking for him.

Defensively, remember JaVie'Ontae Mumphrey. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder was a terror off the edge last season, when he had 14 sacks. Leroy Lewis brings back five interceptions to the secondary, where Whitaker provided almost 130 tackles as a junior.

Alto has the talent and experience to run the table and once again reach the Region III championship. Mart could be waiting for the Jackets for a second consecutive year after beating Alto 62-40 in last year's state quarterfinals.

Mart and Alto enter the 2013 season ranked No. 1 and No. 2 statewide, respectively, in 1A D-I by multiple preseason publications. ETSN.fm expects the Jackets to live up to those expectations.

ETSN.fm 2013 Preseason Class A/Private Top 10