Alto ends FB season with 28-21 loss to Thorndale

by Jo Anne Embleton

MEXIA – Plagued by the little things that bogged down the team throughout the year, Alto’s post-season play came to an abrupt end, as the Yellowjackets fell to the Thorndale Bulldogs, 28-21, in a Nov. 12 bi-district match played in Mexia.

“We didn’t execute (plays) very well, and we didn’t do some of those things that we did well in past games,” said Alto ISD Athletic Director Lance Gamble. “And it was just one of those things that when you play good teams, they take advantage of that.”

Gamble said the ‘Jackets “turned the ball over too much, and everything we did to win, they did a better job of it than we did.”

The team’s season started several months ago on less than solid footing, as the squad was learning new plays under a new coach. The first week, the ’Jackets fell to Troup, then the next two weeks, they fell to COVID-19: Students and staff alike were plagued by the virus, with games canceled, practices shuttered and campuses closed some of that time.

However, the coaching staff made the most of the break, working diligently with team members to perfect their game, and that paid off as the Yellowjackets posted far more wins than they did losses.

“We did some good things,” Gamble said; “we definitely made some progress.”

However, the match against Thorndale tested the Alto squad, who gave their all Friday.

“I thought we played hard,” he said. “We were down at half-time, but when we came out (afterwards), we caught up,” he said. “We answered some of the things (Thorndale put out there), but when it got down to it, there were too many times in the red zone, or we couldn’t get close to the end zone. But we didn’t lay down, we played hard.”

Alto ends its season with a 6-3 record – less the two games canceled due to COVID – and is ranked second in district play.

Standing out in Gamble’s mind are two things: First, “we’ve got to learn as we progress as a program, to play hard and execute at a high level.”

That means drilling excessively so that the smaller things become second nature, and less time is spent dealing with them and more becomes devoted to more detailed plays.

Second, the game is about growth.

“I said to the seniors (Monday), ‘To achieve something really worthwhile, you have to give it your best and make every single day matter, even though what you might want to accomplish doesn’t happen until four or five months down the road,’” he said.

“That is something that I hope (they take away from the season). We didn’t get it, but I hope we learned through the process that’s what it takes. To try to instinctively train (a team with) very good habits and a championship mentality is a goal of coaching, but it’s something that takes time, and is not a quick fix,” he added. “We’re really trying to emphasize that. And we wouldn’t be able to do what we did without growth.”

The 2021 Yellowjacket team will graduate nine seniors next spring, roughly one-quarter of a 37-man squad, and that is something Gamble is looking forward to.

“We’ll have a good core next year, although we had more depth this year,” he said.

Leaving some space at the end for stats that will be coming in overnight.