After playing a tight battle for much of Friday night’s regular season finale, the visiting Stone Tomcats capitalized on second-half turnovers and unleashed an exhausting rushing attack to hold on for a 48-40 victory at Long Beach’s Lumpkin-Magee Stadium.
The loss, coupled with Wayne County’s win over Gautier, eliminated the Bearcats (6-5, 3-4) from the post-season picture. The Tomcats (7-3, 5-2), however, previously secured the third seed in Region 4-5A and will visit West Jones next week to open the Class 5A playoffs.
“They had nothing to lose and everything to gain. If they win they were in and if they lost they were out so we knew we were going to get their best effort,” said John Feaster, SHS coach. “I’m proud of our kids. They took care of business, ran the ball well and made timely plays on defense. A victory is a victory. We’re happy.”
Friday’s 4-5A finale ended up being a shootout that went down to the final seconds. After the teams were tied 14-14 going into halftime, Stone’s Kentrell McCray punched it in from 1 yard out to open the second half. The Tomcats pooched the ensuing kickoff and recovered the ball. Five plays later Trey Arrington scored his first of four second-half touchdowns on a 16-yard run to push Stone’s lead out to 28-14.
The bruising running back ended up with 151 yards and four scores, including touchdowns from 51 and 42 yards out, on just eight carries.
“I had to trust my fullback. When we were in the huddle my fullback said ‘follow me,’” Arrington said. “I thank God for my line. My line did it for me. I couldn’t have done it without my line.”
He wasn’t the only Stone High Tomcat to have a big game on the ground. Enrique Whaley finished with 112 yards on 25 carries as the primary quarterback, while McCray scored twice on 28 carries to finish with 174 yards.
After having minimal success passing in the first half — Whaley connected with Justin Battise on a 26-yard pass for Stone’s first touchdown — the Tomcats never took the ball off the ground in the second half. Their bruising attack paid off as Arrington was able to gash the Bearcats for big gains late in the contest to keep the visitors ahead.
“We knew could run the ball. We always know we can run it. That’s what we practice,” Feaster said. “We’re a running team, just in shotgun.”
Even with a couple untimely fumbles, the Bearcats were in the game late, trading scoring shots with Stone. Long Beach’s defense only got one stop in the second half, however, allowing Stone to keep its distance.
“Just proud of the growth of our program. There was a time when we would have just folded. We would have been out on the sideline, but in the locker room (mentally). I’m proud with how our team responded and fought to the final whistle,” said Forrest Williams, Long Beach coach. “We have come a long ways as a football team. We’re just not at the level yet where we can make mistakes and overcome them.”
Quarterback Cade Crosby ended up completing 24 of 39 passes for 345 yards with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Wescovich and a 27-yard strike to Logan Matherne. Crosby also scored on runs of 1 and 3 yards.
Dennis Andrews once again proved to be a game breaker for LBHS, compiling 237 yards on 24 carries. An 84-yard burst early in the game helped set up Crosby’s first rushing touchdown to give Long Beach a premature 7-0 advantage. Andrews later scored on runs of 40 and 10 yards.
Although Long Beach finishes just outside of the playoffs, Williams said he’s proud of what his team accomplished this season.
“The future is bright. We finished with a winning record for the first time since 2011 and worked our way into the playoff hunt,” he said. “There’s no break in our region. We were one of the better teams in our region, we just came up short against Stone and Wayne County. We’re plays — almost singular — of being third in the district when we were picked second to last.
“We’re inching up the ladder.”