Stone High is two wins away from playing for its first state football championship in 26 years.
The Tomcats (8-3) host unbeaten Hattiesburg (12-0) in the Class 5A state quarterfinals at 7 p.m. Friday night at A.L. May Stadium in Perkinston.
Second-year coach John Feaster has revived the Tomcats’ program. Stone is coming off a 24-14 victory over West Jones, its first playoff win since 1991. It was the same year Stone lost to Louisville 6-3 in the 4A state finals.
“We’ve got the community talking about Stone High football again,” Feaster said. “We have the opportunity to do something special. Beating West Jones was huge for us. The team has jelled. That’s why we’re in this position. The coaching staff is getting the kids to understand the magnitude of this game.”
Stone High, however, faces a tough obstacle trying to knock off the Tigers. Hattiesburg won the first meeting 62-27 on Sept. 29 at D.I. Patrick Stadium and eventually won the Region 4-5A championship.
In that game, Tigers running back Fabian Franklin ran for 103 yards and scored three touchdowns. Quarterback Jarod Conner added 98 yards rushing with a passing touchdown and a rushing one.
“We need to limit our mistakes and execute on offense,” Feaster said. “Defensively, we can’t give up the big explosive plays. You can’t give them anything. We gave them a lot of opportunities in that first game.”
For the season, Conner has completed 108 of 192 passes for 1,976 yards and 21 touchdowns. He’s also rushed 149 times for 1,074 yards and 23 more scores. Franklin had 652 yards on 93 carries and 13 scores.
“Hattiesburg’s an explosive team that’s well-coached,” Feaster said. “It won’t be easy to knock them off. We’ll take our chances and see what happens.”
Stone has its own explosive playmakers. Kentrell McCray had 1,034 yards and nine touchdowns on 161 carries. Enrique Whaley has 120 carries for 824 yards and nine scores. Trey Arrington has 81 carries for 565 yards and 13 TDs. Demetrius Whitaker had two interceptions against West Jones, including a pick-six.
Class 5A quarterfinals
Who: Hattiesburg at Stone
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: A.L. May Stadium, Perkinston