So much for easing into a new gig.
Coach John Feaster wasted little time turning Stone High into a Class 5A contender in the 2016 football season. In his first year on the job after stints as an assistant at Pearl River Central and Picayune, Feaster led the Tomcats to an 8-4 record and a surge up the Region 4-5A standings.
After leading the Tomcats to their best finish since Larry Easterling’s 1994 squad went 9-3, Feaster was recently named the Region 4-5A Coach of the Year. Hattiesburg receiver Jordan Murphy was named the Player of the Year, with Pascagoula linebacker Matt Inlow and Picayune running back Josh Littles earning defensive and offensive player of the year honors.
“It was a season of ups and downs but overall we were blessed. We had a good year,” Feaster said Wednesday. “The kids handled change well and were very resilient. I just thank God they played as hard as they did for us.”
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Feaster admitted to having some concerns heading into the job before he met with the players. Not being from Stone, Feaster wondered if the Tomcats would immediately take to his coaching. Once he arrived in Wiggins, he was pleasantly surprised.
“Once I met everyone, met the kids and sat down with the coaches, I knew they would be receptive,” Feaster said. “They’re one of the best group of kids I’ve ever been around.
“They all have the want-to, the desire.”
Feaster found out exactly what kind of team he had in the Tomcats’ second game, a narrow 33-28 win over East Central.
“They kept playing hard with East Central, even with them being as tough as they are because of how they run the ball,” Feaster said. “That’s one of the first things you want to test, the toughness. Even in the (38-35) loss to Poplarville, they kept fighting.
“That’s some of the things you want to see from a team.”
So after an 8-4 overall record and a 5-2 region mark, with losses to Pascagoula and Hattiesburg, what’s next for the Tomcats?
Feaster set the bar awfully high in his head coaching debut.
“I just hope we can continue to build,” he said. “It’s a tough district, having to play teams like Picayune and Wayne County. We don’t have any pushovers.
“The bar is set high for us as a team and staff and it also raises expectations. And now the kids expect to have success. They think they can win now.”
Murphy was one of the top seniors in Mississippi this season. A Tennessee commit, Murphy led the Tigers with 78 receptions for 1,695 yards and 21 touchdowns. Littles led the Maroon Tide’s powerful offense with 2,399 yards rushing and 25 touchdowns. Twelve times in 14 games Littles rushed for at least 100 yards. Inlow proved to be one of the state’s top tacklers, racking up 155 tackles, including 16 for losses. He also led Pascagoula with six sacks and intercepted one pass.
Members of the Region 5-4A first team are: Gautier’s Paul Gainer, Justin Scott, Deandre Torrey and Dominic Blankenship; Pascagoula’s James Jackson, Landon Gordon and Alden Davis; Hattiesburg’s Quincy McGee, Fabian Franklin, Deandre Humbles, Shakeem West, Julian Conner, Raheem Willis, Chandler Phillips, Deontre Barnes and Raykel Ducksworth; Picayune’s Connor Ruffin, Blake Merrifield, Tyler Penton, Shaun Anderson, Louis Graham, Javonte Raymond, David Baker, Brian Taylor and Cole Bean; Stone’s Brandon Dickens, Terrion Avery, Nick Brown, Kentrell McRae, Enrique Whaley, Mason Hunt, Preston Stringer, Kendall Arrington, R’tarriun Johnson and Ereon Harris; West Harrison’s Arthur Pickett; Pearl River Central’s Tyler Kellar, Lewis Reese, Cade Lee, Diante Lenoir, Orlando Malley, Seth Orgeron, A.J. Banks and Triston Anderson; and Long Beach’s J.T. Tripp, Mathew Cropper, Tony Young, Trevon Taylor, Torique Bester, Jarius Warren and Tim Duncan.
Members of the Region 5-4A second team are: Picayune’s Skyler Bowman, Benny Holifield, Jacob Brumley, Jortin Raine, Jerimiah Stallings, Ronald Polk, Chris Magee and Rashard Johnson; Hattiesburg’s Dennis Peyton, Dreslan Allen, Josh Dean, Jarod Conner, Will Robinson, Reggie Williams and Dshaun Mitchell; Pascagoula’s Reginald Hunter, Javarous Walker, Mariko Harris, Adam Panni, Adrean Johnson and Jaeden Ridgeway; Stone’s Trent Howe, Ashton Hickman, Tavin Peters and Aaron Yeager; Gautier’s Odarius Green, Sirshamus Smith, Cameron Williams and James Earl Williams; PRC’s Wyatt Davis, Michael Tatman and Brennan Duplechain; Long Beach’s J’Saylen Bankston and Bryce Warden; and West Harrison’s Cody Gassman.