It was John Feaster’s Pearl River Central defense two years ago that up-ended powerhouse Laurel “Between the Bricks” for a regular season upset. It was one of just two losses that season for the eventual Class 5A champs.
Now at Stone High, Feaster had hoped to replicate his 2014 success in his playoff debut for the Tomcats — and early on it looked like his team just might follow through.
But Laurel capitalized on several second-half turnovers and big plays to eliminate Stone from the first round of the Class 5A playoffs, 35-13.
With the win, Laurel advances to play rival Hattiesburg in the second round.
We didn’t take advantage of our opportunities and when you’re playing a good team, you have to take advantage of every opportunity that’s given to you,” Feaster said. “I’m proud of the kids. They fought hard. We let the mistakes get the best of us. We just have to learn to respond better to adversity.
“It was a great year. I just wish it could have been a little better.”
Laurel quarterback Tyquan Ulmer sparked the home team’s offense. Despite throwing an interception on his first pass of the game he finished with 212 yards and a touchdown. Dontario Drummond, his go-to receiver, also had three receptions for 148 yards.
Ulmer didn’t finish with a big game rushing, but he was able to keep several drives alive with his feet.
“Those are two big-time playmakers right there,” Feaster said. “That’s going to be a great game between them and Hattiesburg.”
While Avery finished with 157 yards rushing, Laurel did a good job containing the elusive running back, keeping him from breaking any runs longer than 12 yards.
“We were patient,” LHS coach Todd Breland said. “We stressed being patient all week long. We worked hard tonight and it paid off. He’s a really, really good football player.”
The Tomcats (8-4) had to work for their first touchdown, but after stripping Drummond on their own 1, the Cats drove 99 yards for the game’s first score. Following a pass interference call, Avery danced around the left side of the line and threw the crowd for a 10-yard score. The PAT clanked off the uprights, however, giving Stone a 6-0 advantage at 10:22 in the second quarter.
Laurel (11-1) responded on its next drive, which was aided by several flags. Running back Michael Terrell picked up several blocks around the right side and scored on a 15-yard run, putting LHS ahead 7-6 mid-way through the second quarter.
Following a Stone punt, LHS struck quickly on a 57-yard post pass from Ulmer to Drummond.
SHS had two chances at the end of the half to convert field goals following a running into the kicker call, but Mason Hunt’s 37-yard field goal attempt was tipped at the line.
Laurel capitalized on Stone’s first turnover of the game early in the second half. Following an Avery fumble, Terrell broke free up the middle for an 8-yard score, extending Laurel’s lead to 21-7.
Terrell added to Laurel’s lead on its next possession with a 25-yard touchdown run, bouncing off several ‘Cat defenders heading into the end zone.
With just under two minutes remaining in the third quarter Ulmer broke free for a 20-yard touchdown, pushing Laurel’s lead to 35-6.
Ashton Hickman scored Stone’s final touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 43-yard run down the visitor’s sideline.