Seniors Keenen Johnson + Craig Collins Leading The Way For Youthful, But 4-0 Alto Squad
Alto knocked off Buffalo, 74-21, to move its record to 4-0 entering this week’s non-district game against Tenaha.
The Yellowjackets are dominating on offense, thanks in large part to quarterback Keenen Johnson, who holds offers from SMU and Louisiana-Lafayette. Alto is outscoring opponents by 29 points per game and has scored over 60 points twice in two games.
“It all starts with our quarterback,” said Alto head coach Paul Gould of Johnson. “He’s having another great season for us through four games. It is really nice having him back there. He can get us out of negative plays real quick because he can make things happen when a play breaks down or someone makes a mistake running a route or missing a block.
"He’s a smart kid and a good kid. He is a leader and has morphed into a coach on the field for us. If a wide receiver runs the wrong route, he’ll get in his ear, but he does it in a good way. He just wants everyone to elevate their play for the good of the team. The kids like playing with him.”
It isn’t all offense at Alto, however. All-state linebacker Craig Collins is back to lead the defense.
“We’re a young football team, and those two – Johnson and Collins – have really been the catalyst to our early success because we have experienced anchors on each side of the ball that help the young kids figure it out,” Gould said. “Collins is a hard-nosed football player. He likes being physical. He’s around the football at all times and never takes plays off. For a coach, he is great because he gives us a point of reference when we’re showing the team film because we can point at him and show the amount of effort he puts in to being successful.”
Outside of Johnson and Collins, Alto is fighting a youth movement. The Yellowjackets returned two starters on each side of the ball. That puts a lot of pressure on the backups from last year and the athletes making a transition from junior varsity to varsity.
“We try to look for improvement each week, but we’re getting to that point where the experience excuse doesn’t work anymore. We wanted that to be true by district play and I think we’re getting there,” Gould said. “We knew we’d make mistakes early in the season, but hopefully those mistakes lessen each week. We’re getting better and we’ll only get more polished as the season wears on.”
Alto is the favorite to win District 11-2A Division II, but Gould thinks the road to a district crown will be difficult.
“Our district is better this year than it was last year,” Gould said. “Price Carlisle will be good. They have a lot of seniors. Kerens is always good. I know the coaches at both schools and they’ll be ready to go. I also think teams like Cross Roads and Cayuga will be improved. We’re expecting really tough games.”
Alto hosts Tenaha this Friday in its final non-district game of the season. The district schedule begins Oct. 9 with a home game against Grapeland.