No football team in The Meridian Star’s coverage area made it as far last year as Neshoba Central, reaching the semifinals of the Class 5A playoffs.

Leading the Rockets there was head coach Patrick Schoolar, who was named the Premier Preps Presented by Mississippi Power Football Coach of the Year.

“It’s a big honor,” Schoolar said. “It’s more of a testament to the program, and it’s more of a testament to the players and coaching staff I have, too. I couldn’t have any accolades without them.”

Patrick Schoolar

Patrick Schoolar

After an 0-3 start to the 2019 season, suffering losses to fellow 5A school Grenada and 6A schools Germantown and Tupelo, Schoolar righted the ship and guided Neshoba Central to eight straight wins to close out the regular season. During that stretch, the Rockets averaged more than 43 points per game on offense while allowing less than 17 points per game on defense. Only one of those eight contests was decided by one possession or less. 

“They’ve gotten used to winning, so a loss doesn’t unseat them like it may have in the past,” Schoolar said. “It was probably one of the most mentally tough teams I’ve ever coached, and as a coach you love a team that’s mentally tough. Getting behind didn’t really affect them because they were always a play or two away from scoring 14 points.”

Schoolar also put Neshoba Central’s postseason run on track by avenging the Rockets’ 30-20 loss to Grenada in the season opener and defeating the Chargers 26-24 in the Class 5A first round, overcoming a 21-0 second-quarter deficit along the way. After the victory, Neshoba Central edged Lake Cormorant 36-28 in another thriller before falling to West Point 20-7 in the 5A North State title game.

In his four years at the helm, Schoolar has collected a 29-22 record, eclipsing the 10-win mark in each of the last two seasons.

“It’s a testament to where the program is now. I’d love to take all the credit for it, but it’s not me,” Schoolar said. “The kids are the ones who bought in. The kids believed in what we taught. It was just one of those teams with self-motivated people. I don’t know how to explain it.”

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