Hattiesburg put a decisive end to Stone High’s deepest postseason run since 1991 on Friday. Led by the dual-threat ability of quarterback Jarod Conner, the Tigers rolled past the Tomcats 49-9 at A.L. May Memorial Stadium.
HHS now advances to play rival Laurel in the Class 5A South State title game. The Tornadoes rallied late to defeat Brookhaven 26-22.
“It’s a great feeling. Our goal at the beginning of the year was to take it one step farther than we did the year before,” Hattiesburg coach Tony Vance said. “This win tonight puts us in South State, which is one step farther than we went last year.”
Vance went on to say the 13-0 Tigers’ work isn’t done yet. And while they’re ultimately two wins away from hoisting the golden football, they put in a pretty complete effort Friday against a formidable Tomcats (8-4) team.
Hattiesburg’s combination of playmakers on offense and tough defensive front made life difficult for Stone.
“They did exactly what we thought they were going to do and didn’t show us anything different,” SHS coach John Feaster said. “It didn’t look like we were ready. We came out flat and I don’t know why. I have to do a better job moving forward.”
HHS set the tone early, after forcing Stone to punt on its opening drive, the Tigers marched down the field in clumps, with plays of 15, 14 and 17 yards before Conner scored his first touchdown on a 7-yard run. He extended extended Hattiesburg’s lead to 14-0 late in the first quarter on a 2-yard run.
“He’s probably the best football player in South Mississippi,” Feaster said. “He runs with a purpose. You can see it on film and when he plays. You never tackle him with one guy or arm tackle him. down together.”
Conner ended up completing 15 of 22 passes for 248 yards with touchdowns of 25 and 30 yards to D’Andre Humbles. He also rushed for 102 yards and touchdowns of 1, 5 and 2 yards on 16 carries.
Vance said the one play his QB may remember, however, was when Jamir Jamison and Spencer Edwards chased him backward 22 yards into his own end zone for a safety.
“He’ll kick himself for those two turnovers because that’s the type of young man he is, but he’s been the guy for us all year,” Vance said.
Darius Ruffin was a go-to target for Conner, catching seven passes for 126 yards. Humbles finished with three receptions for 79 yards and two scores. Drexlan Allen wrapped up Hattiesburg’s touchdowns with runs of 7 and 4 yards. Mississippi State commit Fabian Franklin finished with 66 yards on 12 carries to round out Hattiesburg’s standouts.
“Collectively, when we play how we’re supposed to play, I think we have a chance,” Vance said.
Stone’s lone touchdown came midway through the second quarter when Trey Arrington capped a 10-play, 74-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Stone was delivered a blow midway through the third quarter when Mr. Everything, Enrique Whaley, left the game with an injury after rushing for 87 yards on 19 carries. He also completed 1 of 4 passes for 7 yards.
“He does a lot. Everything we do revolves around him. I think when he went down our kids kind of went down,” Feaster said. “We just have to learn in the future that it’s teamwork. Instead, when he went down, we went down together.”
The loss wraps up the Tomcats’ season with a second-straight 8-win season under Feaster.
“I think we’re moving forward but we still have a ways to go,” he said. “I think we have to pick up our level of toughness and that starts in the offseason.”