NEW LONDON — In the first half, Harleton had everything going its way. They dominated both sides of the ball and racked up 161 yards in total offense and built an 8-point lead in the half.
But Alto put together an impressive second half, stepped up where it mattered most and came back to defeat the Wildcats 37-20 at Bruce Bradshaw Stadium in Class 1A Division I bi-district play.
The dynamic duo of Zach Sturns and all-purpose player Ja'Colby Whitaker put on a show for the Yellowjackets. Sterns rushed 22 times and picked up 131 yards on the ground and scored three rushing TDs. He completed 4 of 5 passes for 47 yards.
Whitaker galloped for 179 yards on 18 carries and scored twice. He picked off a 2-point conversion pass and raced 102 yards for a 2-pointer.
Wide receiver Leroy Lewis returned the opening kickoff of the second half to the Wildcats 35 and five plays later, Whitaker got in from the 1 and Lance Collins hauled in the 2-point conversion to put the Yellowjackets up 15-14 with 9:52 left in the third quarter.
From that point on, Alto never trailed.
The Yellowjackets went on to score 28 unanswered points and took complete control of the game. Their defense found a way to slow down Jed Smith, who only picked up 20 yards in the second half after gaining 68 in the first. They also kept quarterback Taylor Henson out of rhythm in the passing game as he went a mere 2 for 8 in the second half for 12 yards.
"Coach (Paul) Gould just told us to play Alto ball," Whitaker said. "And when we play Alto ball, I don't feel like there is a team that can beat us when we play our style of ball."