Stone High left Biloxi with a narrow 28-24 victory Friday night, but Tomcats head coach John Feaster tried to hammer home post-game that he wanted more from his players and was unsatisfied with how the the four-point victory over the Class 6A opponent played out.
“We had a chance to go ahead and put the lights out early. We didn’t and we paid for it in the end,” he said. “We were very undisciplined, which is my fault. We have to do a better job of coaching. It starts with me and I’m just disappointed.”
One big area of concern for Feaster was penalties, where the Tomcats were hit with 17 for 120 yards.
“I’m proud of them. We secured the win, but we just have to be better,” he said. “... We’re playing a great ball club next week (Poplarville). You come out and do that and they’ll embarrass you.”
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Stone jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first half thanks to touchdown runs of 11 and 2 yards from running back Trey Arrington, who finished with a game-high 85 yards.
“Arrington is a guy we’d love to tote the ball much more for us, but we have to do a better job of conditioning him during the week because he’s our starting linebacker,” Feaster said. “He’s 200 pounds, so if he can learn to keep those shoulder pads going forward he’ll be fine.”
Arrington was one of six Tomcats (2-0) who carried the ball Friday. Kentrell McCray also rushed for 82 yards, good enough for second on the team.
“We’re trying to find the guy who wants to be the bell cow. We’re looking for that guy,” Feaster said of his running back rotation.
Biloxi (0-3) quickly responded after falling behind 14-0. With the Tomcats backed up deep, Riko Carter hijacked a pass and returned it about 25 yards for a pick-six mid-way through the second quarter.
Junior quarterback Kamron Suddeth marched Biloxi down the field on its next possession, capping a 50-yard drive with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Dajour Brown to tie the game 14-14. Suddeth, who has taken over the majority of snaps at quarterback after Brodie King was injured in the opener, finished the game with 8 of 16 passing for 154 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
“He’s still getting better,” Biloxi coach Bobby Hall said. “He’s an inexperienced quarterback but he’s continuing to get better.”
Just before the half, Stone took the lead for good. Three plays after the Tomcats converted a third-and-23 with a 29-yard run from Dennis Roberts, quarterback Travis Picco hit a wide open Roberts for a 22-yard touchdown over the middle to go back ahead 21-14.
Biloxi chipped away at Stone’s lead early in the third quarter on a 29-yard field goal from Cade Ganey but still trailed 21-17 after three quarters.
Early in the final frame Stone struck for the final time. Once again a big third-down conversion catapulted the Tomcats to a score. Shortly after Enrique Whaley crushed a third-and-19 situation with a 28-yard run around the left side the versatile athlete caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Picco. It was the final big play on a night where Whaley also picked off Suddeth and had a big punt return.
“Whaley is a big-time player and he has a chip on his shoulder because he wasn’t on the preseason All-Coast team,” Feaster said. “I was a little upset for him, too. He’s big time. Five punt returns for touchdowns(last year); it’s on us he didn’t get the ball more last year.
“He had a touchdown and an interception. He’s a great player. I just hope everyone else would catch up with him.”
The Indians hit one play later on a 69-yard touchdown strike from Suddeth to Jordan Montgomery but were unable to find pay dirt one final time.
“We had a chance there. We had the ball and couldn’t do what we needed to do,” Hall said of the team’s final offensive drive, which stalled at Stone’s 36.
Back on the Coast
Former St. Martin standout Donte Starks, who had transferred to John Ehret in New Orleans during the spring only to end up back at BHS this fall, made his Indians debut.
Known as a standout linebacker, Biloxi came out with a surprise on offense as Starks played much of the game as a wildcat quarterback, rotating with Suddeth on top of his defensive duties.
“I thought he did fine. He’s still in really bad shape,” Hall said. “He hasn’t really been doing anything and has only practiced with us for about two weeks. He will be a really good football player, we just got to get him in shape.”
Starks acknowledged post-game it will take him a few more weeks to get back into good enough shape where he can be counted on to be a two-way player. His offensive highlight of the night came via a 42-yard dash up the middle early in the second half. Stone hemmed him in from there, however, limiting his impact on offense.
Stone is back in action Friday against top-ranked Poplarville. BHS has a bye week before traveling to Northshore (Slidell, Louisiana) on Sept. 15.