PHILADELPHIA — Neshoba Central came up with the big blow.
Behind the play of senior Jarquez Hunter, the Rockets used a big fourth quarter en route to a 49-14 win over West Lauderdale at Rocket Field on Friday night.
“It was a physical, tough ball game, and that’s what I told people all week,” Neshoba Central coach Patrick Schoolar said. “It wasn’t easy at all, but I’m proud of the guys for the effort. We kept chipping away and got some breaks.”
Neshoba Central (2-0) never trailed. The Rockets scored first on a Hunter 5-yard run on the first play of the second quarter to take a 7-0 lead. West Lauderdale tied the game at 7 on a Ja’Karius Grant 9-yard run with 8:18 left in the second quarter.
Neshoba Central responded with a 2-yard touchdown run by Hunter with 2:27 left in the first half to give the Rockets a 14-7 lead. On West Lauderdale’s opening drive of the third quarter, Grant fumbled, and Hunter scooped the ball up and scampered 47 yards to the end zone to extend the Neshoba lead to 21-7 with 10:01 remaining.
“That was the play of the game because that put us up by two scores,” Schoolar said. “After that, good things kept happening for us. They drove down and scored, but we then drove down and scored. At the end of the day it’s great win for us, and we will get better.”
Grant scored again on a 2-yard run for West Lauderdale to cut the Rockets’ lead to 21-14. On Neshoba Central next drive, quarterback Eli Anderson scored on a 1-yard run to make it 28-14 with 6:04 left in the third quarter.
Anderson finished the night with 108 yards rushing and a touchdown and 112 yards passing, and he connected with Bryceton Spencer on an 82-yard touchdown pass with 11:52 left in the fourth quarter. Neshoba Central scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
“I thought we did great. Offensively, we didn’t start out great, but we finished strong,” Anderson said. “The offensive line started making blocks, and Jarquez just did what he normally does, and it just fell into place.”
Hunter finished the night with 113 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 17 carries.
“We scored on both sides of the ball tonight. The offensive line did a good job of making holes for the running lanes, and I found them,” Hunter said. “Defensively, we were dominant. On the fumble I saw the bounce, and I caught it and scored.”
Grant finished with 58 yards rushing with two touchdowns for West Lauderdale, while quarterback Jackson Parker had 168 yards passing for the Knights (1-1).
“It was a really good game for three quarters and got lopsided at the end. Like last year, they’ll go far, and hopefully we will, too,” West Lauderdale coach Brock Clay said. “I knew the team that won the turnover battle would win, and that’s what happened.”