ALTO, TX (KTRE) – The name Alto Yellowjackets is sure to strike fear in the heart of their opponents.
This powerhouse team, known for its running game, is predicted to finish second in district behind its chief rival, the Garrison Bulldogs. That is the word from the experts, however, Alto has a different outcome in mind.
Alto is still steaming over that 28-27 heartbreaking loss to Garrison last season. The Yellowjackets are looking for redemption. They will have to wait 7 games into the schedule for a rematch. No matter, it just gives them more time to perfect their game.
They are counting on team leadership, a strong contingency of returning starters, and a host of talented underclassmen to get them there.
"You know, number 1 is just like I tell the kids, whether we're number 1, or you come in at number 20, it doesn't matter where you start at, it's where you finish. You know, we want our kids to work hard each and every day and we set our goals and we do our best to reach those goals and in order for us to do that we have to work hard every day. We can't sit around and wait for it to happen. We have to go out and do it," said Keith Gardner, Head Coach.
Alto is no stranger to hard work and success, having experienced back to back state championships in 2006 and 2007.
"We've seen Alto win state back to back, and we know, we want to know what it feels like to be that team to win state that third time," said JaColby Whitaker, quarterback and free safety.
Whitaker will be taking the snaps as quarterback. He may also get some playing time at free safety. This is only his second year on varsity, but his record speaks for itself with 112 passes for 914 yards, 10 touchdowns rushing and 6 T-D's passing. This sophomore knows how to operate.
"We want to win state and I mean if we win state that's just good enough for me I don't really care about individual stats as long as the team is doing good," said Whitaker.
And he has a squad full of teammates ready to back him up. Whitaker thinks they have the winning formula. "Discipline, the leadership with everybody not just seniors and juniors just everybody wanting to win and being hungry for a state championship."
Players like offensive lineman Daniel Ball share Whitaker's passion to win.
"I just try to make sure that they know what to do and when to do it and make sure that we do everything 100% because in the end that's what it's going to take to win a state championship," said Ball.
Ball well remembers the 1 point loss to Garrison and the third place finish in district. Those are two memories he will be working to help erase this season. "I expect us to win a state championship and go undefeated that's the only season we expect to have here."
"I think so, you know, just getting out competing and playing the game itself that's motivation enough. It gives you a little something extra to drive for. Makes these kids hungry you know as coaches we know the goal is as good as your last ball game. We ended last season with a loss in the second round. We don't want to feel that again but we'll go out do our best and hope that it doesn't happen," said Gardner.
And, perhaps, that is the biggest motivation of all.