A 37-yard field goal by Hunter Bavetta with 12 seconds left in the fourth quarter was the difference as Neshoba Central edged Lafayette 23-20 in the second round of the MHSAA Class 5A playoffs Friday at Neshoba Central.
Lafayette tied the game 20-20 with just more than a minute remaining in regulation, but the Rockets were able to get down the field quickly to set up Bavetta's game-winner.
Quarterback Eli Anderson delivered Neshoba Central’s first touchdown of the game on a 20-yard pass to Dedrick McWilliams in the first quarter. The Commodores responded with a kickoff return for a touchdown to tie it 7-7, but a 43-yard field goal by Bavetta in the second quarter put the Rockets back in front 10-7, which remained the score at halftime.
Bavetta hit his second field goal of the game from 39 yards out late in the third quarter to put the Rockets ahead 13-7, but the Commodores tied 13-13 it with 5:36 remaining in the fourth quarter on a touchdown run and a missed PAT.
Elijah Ruffin then caught a 53-yard touchdown pass with 4:56 remaining in the game to put the Rockets back ahead 20-13 before a touchdown catch by Lafayette’s Kylen Vaughn with 1:07 left to play made it 20-20, setting up Neshoba Central’s game-winning drive.
Anderson had another strong performance for Neshoba Central, finishing 27 of 43 for 345 yards and two touchdowns passing, and he also rushed nine times for 42 yards. Ken Drummond led the Rockets in rushing with 72 yards on 13 carries, and McWilliams finished with 100 yards and a touchdown on seven catches, while Ruffin had 77 yards and a touchdown on five catches. Ja’Naylon Dupree tallied 95 yards on eight receptions, and Bryceton Spencer had six catches for 68 yards.
Defensively, Beau Holley had five solo tackles and three tackles for loss, while Ruffin finished with six solo tackles and 1/2 a tackle for loss for the Rockets. Jaharon Girffin led with 11 solo tackles and 1/2 a tackle for loss, and Jashawn Mathis tallied two solo tackles and a tackle for loss. Maxton Woodward and Braydon Gibson each had a tackle for loss, and Anthony Hopson finished with 1 1/2 tackles for loss. Le’Damien Jones knocked down three of the Commodores’ passes at defensive back for Neshoba Central.
The Rockets (12-0) will face West Point (10-0) next week in the third round of the Class 5A playoffs.
MHSAA Class 4A Playoffs — Third Round
•Columbia 41, Newton County 25
MHSAA Class 3A Playoffs — Third Round
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MHSAA Class 2A Playoffs — Third Round
•Pelahatchie 48, Kemper County 20