NEW LONDON —
After a somewhat dull start, the Alto Yellowjackets kicked things into high gear in the third quarter and dispatched Harleton's Wildcats from the Class A-I Region III state playoffs for the second year in-a-row, winning 37-20 Friday evening.
The game was played at Bruce Bradshaw Stadium in New London.
After the Wildcats (7-4) dominated the first 24 minutes of play, Alto came out in the second half and scored three third-stanza touchdowns to blow the game wide open.
After trailing 14-7 at the break, the Yellowjackets (8-3) doubled up Harleton, 28-14, going into the final period in route to victory.
The Mean Sting will move on to an Area skirmish against the Bobcats of Hull-Daisetta (4-6) who had a first-round bye on Friday after winning District 11-A-I.
That game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Lufkin's Abe Martin Stadium.
The Yellowjackets and the Bobcats, likewise, met at the same venue last year in Area play, with Alto coming away with a 35-28 win.
The Yellowjackets responded well to the adjustments that were made at halftime by Mean Sting head coach Paul Gould and company.
Alto received the second-half kick off and after a long kick off return by Leroy Lewis, the 'Jackets set up shop at the Harleton 35-yard line.
The Mean Sting needed just 2:02 to burst into the end zone when Jacolby Whitaker plowed in from a yard out, scoring the first of two touchdowns that the senior would log on the evening.
Jesus Hernandez fielded an errant snap on the PAT try and was forced to pass the ball,with Lance Collins catching the ball for two points, giving Alto its first lead of the night, 15-14.
Alto never trailed from that point on.
After the Wildcats were forced to go three and out, the Mean Sting got on the board once again when quarterback Zac Sturns motored in from three yards, getting a nice lead block from Whitaker, at the 5:58 mark of third.
Then, with 1:42 to play in the stanza, Sturns made his way into the end zone yet another time, this time traveling 19 yards.
The punishing combination of Whitaker and Sturns wore down the Wildcats, who held a size advantage over Alto.
Whitaker ended the night with 19 carries for 177 yards while Sturns had 125 yards on 21 scampers. Sturns went 4-5-0 — 46 through the air as Alto amassed 329 total yards to Harleton's 228.
The Wildcats, the third-place team from District 9-A-I, could muster just 71 total yards in the final half.
Alto picked up 20 first downs in the game and did not commit a turnover, while the Wildcats tallied 13 first downs and had one turnover.
Harleton quarterback T. J. Davis tossed touchdown strikes of 10 and 22 yards in the first half. Taylor Henson was the recipient of both.
Alto 0 7 21 9 — 37
Harleton 7 7 0 6 — 20
H-T. J. Davis 10 pass from Taylor Henson (Zimicki kick), 6:28
A- Zac Sturns 8 run (Nicholas Leon kick), 10:43
H- Davis 22 pass from Henson (Zimicki kick), 3:51
A-Jacolby Whitaker 1 run (Lance Collins pass from Jesus Hernandez), 9:52
A- Sturns 3 run (pass failed), 5:58
A-Sturns 19 run (Leon kick), 1:42
A-Whitaker 1 run (Leon kick), 8:04
H- Jed Smith 11 run (pass intercepted), 4:27
A-Whitaker 101 interception return of conversion attempt, 4:27