If the Stone High and East Central football teams look eerily similar when they compete Friday night in Hurley, there’s good reason for that.
First-year Stone High coach John Feaster and East Central head coach Seth Smith have known each other since they were kids and their football careers have been intertwined for the better part of the last two decades.
Friday night’s game will mark the first time the two men will meet as high school head coaches.
“It’s going to be a treat,” Feaster said. “We played little league ball against each other and played against each other in high school in a big rivalry game.
“It’s going to be fun. You want to win, but at the end of the day we’ll still be buddies.”
Smith played high school football at Pearl River Central while Feaster was a standout for rival Picayune. Once their prep playing days were over, they played on the same Pearl River Community College football team. Smith was a linebacker and Feaster was a defensive lineman.
Feaster went on to play Division I football at Cincinnati, but the distance between the two men didn’t last long.
Both Feaster and Smith entered high school coaching. They worked together on the Picayune staff under Dodd Lee before Smith convinced Feaster to join him on the staff at PRC. The two coached the Carriere school for one year before Smith took the head coaching job at East Central in 2013.
Feaster replaced Smith as the defensive coordinator at PRC.
“They didn’t skip a beat,” Smith said of the Blue Devils’ defense under Feaster.
Stone High and East Central both got off to impressive starts a week ago. The Tomcats stunned Vancleave on its home field, 49-6, and East Central made short work of St. Luke’s of Mobile in a 61-21 game in Hurley.
Smith definitely sees some similarities to his team in Feaster’s Stone High squad.
“I don’t see a lot of distinct differences,” Smith said. “Me and him are really good friends. We coach our kids the same way. We chuckle about it. I talked to him Sunday and I told him I’d try not to call him until we talk after the game.
“We’re both going to coach our kids the same way. We’re blessed to have worked with what we think are two legendary coaches in Dodd Lee (at Picayune) and Eric Collins (at PRC). Hopefully, we can build off what we’ve learned from them.”
Feaster looks to what Smith has been building at East Central and hopes to do much of the same in Wiggins.
“It’s year four for him and year one for me,” Feaster said. “I feel like we’re trying to establish what they have established. Everybody knows they’ve got to stop the run against East Central. They have big guys up front who know what they’re doing.”
Both teams will generally keep it on the ground and Stone High will rely on senior running back Terrion Avery, who ran 24 times for 250 yards and three touchdowns in the season-opening win.
“He’s a very special player,” Feaster said. “He was in midseason form last week. We’re going to ride him this year.”
Junior running back Tony Brown led the East Central ground attack last week with 11 carries for 148 yards and three touchdowns.
East Central showed it can mix it up on offense with the quarterback-receiver combination of junior Rylee Brown junior wingback Brad Cumbest, who had four catches for 108 yards and a score.
“That’s something we’re very concerned about,” Feaster said. “We’re going to have to stop run, but they can hit you with that pass. We’ve got to load up the box to stop the run. We’re very concerned about that.”
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