PHILADELPHIA — Jarquez Hunter was a one-man wrecking crew.
Hunter had two rushing touchdowns, and two interceptions on defense, to help lead Neshoba Central get past Grenada 26-24 in a thriller in the first round of the MHSAA Class 5A playoffs at Rocket Field Friday night.
The Rockets (9-3) will host Lake Cormorant in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs next week.
“I told people all week it was going to be a good football game,” said Neshoba Central coach Patrick Schoolar. “The defense played their tails and made play after play. The guys fought and just chipped away. Jarquez is a great player and he stepped up.”
It didn’t start off well for Neshoba Central as Grenada came out firing.
The Chargers built a 21-0 lead in the first 15 minutes of the game.
Demarquese Gibson had a 1-yard touchdown on the opening drive of the game to put Grenada up 7-0 with 4:56 left in the first quarter.
Joshua Phillips then found Mississippi State commit Emmanuel Forbes on a 63-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 14-0 with two seconds left in the opening quarter.
After an interception, Phillips connected with Christian Wortham on a 15-yard touchdown pass to go up 21-0 with 9:13 left in the first half.
Neshoba Central then get on the board on a 57-yard touchdown run by Hunter with 7:03 left in the first half.
The Rockets cut the lead to 21-14 on a 1-yard run by Tyler Mathis with 1:37 left in the second quarter.
Grenada’s Remmington Smith hit a 19-yard field goal as time expired to extend the Charger lead to 24-14 at halftime.
To start the second half, Hunter intercepted a pass on Grenada’s first drive of the second half, and six plays later scored on an 18-yard touchdown run to cut the Grenada lead to 24-20 with 7:44 left.
Hunter came off a block on a tunnel screen and intercepted his second pass of the game and scampered 27 yards into the end zone with 11 seconds left in the third quarter.
“I felt the receiver coming down to block and I knew it was going to be a tunnel screen, and I just read the play and the quarterback threw it straight to me,” Hunter said. “We got in the locker room and coach got onto us, and we came out and played better in the second half. Defense was huge, and offensively we did better running the ball in the second half, and the line blocked well. I don’t let one guy tackle me, it’s got to take two or three to take me down.”
Hunter finished the night with 105 yards rushing on 17 carries with two touchdowns. Mathis had 115 yards rushing on 26 carries.
“Great players showed up tonight, and Jarquez did that. And the defense was great in the second half,” Schoolar said. “Great win for this school and community, and we get to play here again next week against another good football team.”
Gibson had 134 yards with a touchdown to lead Grenada. Phillips had 157 yards passing with two touchdowns for the Chargers (7-5).
“I’m very disappointed, and felt like we let this one slip away,” said Grenada coach Ashley Kuhn. “We go up 21-0 and those guys never quit, so you’ve got to give them credit. We weren’t able to finish.”