NEW LONDON -- Alto stormed back from a seven-point halftime deficit to score the first four touchdowns of the second half in a 37-20 Class A Division I Region III bi-district playoff victory against Harleton on Friday at West Rusk's Bruce Bradshaw Stadium.

Harleton's Jed Smith (3) runs the ball during Friday's loss to Alto. (Mark Martin,

As they have all season, Alto seniors Zac Sturns and Jacolby Whitaker spearheaded the offensive attack. Whitaker, who has more than 6,000 career rushing yards, ran 19 times for 192 yards and two touchdowns, while Sturns, the Yellow Jackets' quarterback, had 20 carries for 144 yards and three touchdowns.

Alto (8-3), which erased a 14-7 halftime deficit to take a 35-14 edge, plays Hull-Daisetta (4-6) at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Lufkin's Abe Martin Stadium in a 1A D-I Region III area playoff.

Alto's Zac Sturns (7) breaks Harleton tackles during Friday's 37-20 first-round win. (Mark Martin,

Sturns completed 4 of 5 passes for 46 yards to complement Alto's 367-yard rushing performance.

The Sturns-and-Whitaker duo enters Thursday's second-round matchup with a combined 2,493 rushing yards and 36 touchdown runs. Whitaker leads the team with 1,367 yards and 21 scores, while Sturns adds 1,276 passing yards with 11 touchdowns and only three interceptions.

Harleton (7-4) built its 14-7 halftime lead thanks to two touchdown throws from Taylor Henson to T.J. Davis. Jed Smith led the Wildcats with 90 yards on 15 carries.

Harleton's Taylor Henson throws a pass during Friday's 37-20 first-round playoff loss to Alto in New London. (Mark Martin,