LUFKIN â€” What started out with the appearance of a track meet settled down into a backyard brawl after the first half as Alto plugged away for a 35-28 win over Hull-Daisetta on Friday afternoon at John Outlaw Memorial Field at Abe Martin Stadium.
The Yellowjackets (10-2) will play either Joaquin or Bosqueville in the Class 1A Division I regional playoff round.
The Bobcats ended their season with a 7-4 record after finishing as District 11-1A champions.
The running tandem of Alto quarterback Zac Sturns and running back Jacolby Whitaker combined for 404 yards on the ground to pace the Yellowjackets to the win. Ironically, a pass play made the big difference.
Facing a third-and-4 with 9:27 remaining in the game, Alto wide receiver Jonathan Pope hauled in a 21-yard pass from Sturns to pick up a big first down and sustain the winning drive.
Alto went back to the running game to grind through the clock and regain the lead with 5:23 left in the game when Whitaker scored his third TD of the game for the 35-28 final score.
The ensuing drive by the Bobcats was ended with the second pass of the game from Hull-Daisetta as Altoâ€™s Joe Cruz made the only interception of the game with 2:45 on the clock before the Yellowjackets ran the clock out.
A big special-teams play for Alto came on the opening kickoff after a spoiled onside kick by the Bobcats ended up with Yellowjacketsâ€™ David Berryman catching the ball on the long bounce and set Alto up at the Hull-Daisetta 40.
Whitaker capped off the drive with the first score of the game with a 16-yard blast.
A 20-yard run by Sturns with 1:26 left in the opening period made it a 14-0 game as Altoâ€™s defense turned up the only Bobcat punt of the game.
The ensuing kickoff was fumbled and recovered by Altoâ€™s Dâ€™Anthony Richards Hull-Daisetta 24.
It was Whitaker again bulling through the final 4 yards with 14 seconds left before the quarter ended for a 21-0 Yellowjackets lead.
Herman and the Bobcats bounced right back.
The Bobcats appeared to have found the answer in the backfield as running back Chris Herman churned out 94 of his team-high 121-yards on the ground in the opening half of play.
Hull-Daisetta began to bring its own smash-mouth brand of attack and closed the score to 21-14, after scoring runs of 5 and 1 yards.
At the midway break, Alto held a 201-157 advantage in total yards but the Bobcats appeared to have the momentum.
Hull-Daisetta went right back to the run to tie the game up in the third quarter, as Herman bulled through from 8-yards out at the 8:31 mark.
It was Sturnsâ€™ second score that put Alto back in front to cap off a 15-play, 95-yard drive.
The fleet-footed signal caller appeared to be tackled in the backfield but shook loose and swept the right end from 18 yards out for a 28-21 Alto advantage.
The Bobcats would not go down without a fight when quarterback Austin Edmondson rambled up the middle from 4 yards to tie the game again at 28-28 with 9:27 remaining on the clock.
The Yellowjackets made the big catch-and-run by Pope to keep the playoff run alive.
Whitaker had 33 carries for 217 yards and Sturns added on two touchdowns and 187 yards in 22 tries.
Sturns came through when need through the air, going 4 for 7 for 45 yards.
A strong second half running the ball for the Bobcats came from two-way starter Darrell Lavalais. After Herman was slowed in the third quarter with a testy ankle, Lavalais added 12 carries for 125 yards, of which 67 came in the second half of play.
Alto reeled off 63 plays in the game while the Bobcats ran off 48 in the clock-running, ground-dominated contest.
Class 1A Division I Area Playoff
At John Outlaw Memorial Field At Abe Martin Stadium
Alto 35, Hull-Daisetta 28
Alto 21 0 7 21 â€” 35
Hull-Daisetta 0 14 7 7 â€” 28
Aâ€”Jacolby Whitaker 16 run (Nicholas Leon kick), 10: 42.
Aâ€”Zac Sturns 20 run (Leon kick), 1:26.
Aâ€”Whitaker 4 run (Leon kick), 0:14.
HDâ€”Chris Herman 5 run (Dustin Welch kick), 9:11.
HDâ€”Herman 1 run (Welch kick), 2:32.
HDâ€”Herman 5 run (Welch kick), 8:31.
Aâ€”Sturns 18 run (Leon kick), 1:15.
HDâ€”Austin Edmondson 4 run (Welch kick), 9:27.
Aâ€”Whitaker 4 run (Leon kick), 5:23.
First Downs 20 23
Rushes/Yds. 56-405 46-295
Passing Yds. 45 32
Total Yds. 450 317
Comp-Att-Int 4-7-0 1-2-1
Punts/Avg. 1-49 1-23
Penalties/Yds. 7-55 4-35
Fumbles/Lost 0/0 4/1
RUSHINGâ€”Alto, Jacolby Whitaker 33-217; Zac Sturns 22-187; Jyran Shaw 1-1. Hull-Daisetta, Chris Herman 20-121; Austin Edmondson 9-21; Darrell Lavalais 12-125; Garrett Hickman 3-12; Colby Espree 3-16.
PASSINGâ€”Alto, Zac Sturns 4-7-45-0-0. Hull-Daisetta, Austin Edmondson 1-2-32-0-1.
RECIEVINGâ€”Alto, Johnathon Pope 2-22; Dâ€™Anthony Richards 1-11; Anfernee Black 1-10. Hull-Daisetta, Aaron Moseley 1-32 .