Austin Day (6) breaks away for a big gain in the Rockets victory over Philadelphia Friday night.
Austin Day (6) breaks away for a big gain in the Rockets victory over Philadelphia Friday night.
Neshoba Central held off a last second rally to defeat Philadelphia 33-28 Friday night in the 57th meeting between the two prep football rivals.           

The Tornadoes hold a 31-26 lead in the series which started in 1960. Neshoba Central improves to 3-0 while the Tornadoes drop to 0-2.

The Rockets stayed with their ground game for all but one play. Neshoba Central ran the ball 58 times for 459 yards. Quarterback Austin Day, who ran the ball 10 times for 124 yards, completed his only pass to running back Tyler Mathis for nine yards. Jarquez Hunter was Neshoba Central’s leading rusher with 212 yards on 22 carries. Mathis picked up 103 yards on 21 carries.

“We are going to run the football until somebody stops us,” Coach Patrick Schoolar said. “This is what we do. We have the ability to throw the football and we will go to it when we need to.

“This was a big win for our program. It was a hard-fought game. Our kids held on and weren’t going to be denied.”

This was David Frey’s first game as head coach of the Tornadoes. He became the interim coach Monday following Bobby Hall’s resignation.

“I am very proud of this football team,” Coach Frey said. “They gave everything that they had. It has been a tough week. They stayed focused and gave it all they had. We almost pulled it out. No one quit or gave up.”

The Tornadoes had 218 total yards. They rushed 27 times for 20 yards. Quarterback Asher Morgan completed 13-of-28 passing attempts for 198 yards. Lideatrick Griffin had seven pass receptions for 95 yards.

The Rockets got on the scoreboard early in the second period. Hunter ran it in on a six-yard gain, capping an 11-play, 82-yard drive. The highlight of the drive was a 28-yard run by Hunter on the third play. That and a 15-yard personal foul call against the Tornadoes put the Rockets on the PHS 25-yard line. The Rockets made it to the PHS one-yard line but were pushed back to the six-yard line on a penalty. Hunter scored the next play. Caleb Bradley kicked the extra point and Neshoba Central led 7-0 with 11:39 left in the second quarter.

Neshoba Central forced the Tornadoes to punt. On first down, Day ran 61 yards for a touchdown. Bradley’s kick was good and the Rockets led 14-0.

Philadelphia’s Kadarius Calloway answered the call on the kickoff by returning the ball 73 yards for a touchdown. The run for two failed and Neshoba Central led 14-6 with 9:22 left. That’s how it stood at the half.

Philadelphia took the ball on its 20-yard line halfway through the third quarter following a missed field goal. The Tornadoes drove the ball 80 yards in 15 plays for a touchdown. Deiondre “the Bus” Fox scored on a two-yard run, and then ran in for the two point conversion to tie the game at 14-14 with 2:12 left in the third quarter.

This set up an hard-fought, intense fourth quarter that went down to the final play.

Mathis scored on a one-yard run for the Rockets, capping an 15-play, 51-yard drive. The drive stayed alive on the first play of the fourth quarter when Hunter rammed his way up the middle for three-yard gain and a first down. The Rockets converted four more first downs on the drive that resulted in a touchdown. Bradley kicked the extra point and Neshoba Central led 21-14 with 8:30 remaining.

Philadelphia took the kickoff and put it in the end zone five play later on a 12-yard TD pass from Morgan to Griffin. The try for two failed and the Rockets led 21-20 with 6:31 remaining.

Neshoba Central extended its lead as Hunter bolted for 74 yards on first down to score a touchdown. The extra point try failed and the Rockets led 27-20 with 6:12 remaining.

Philadelphia bounced back with another touchdown of its own. Morgan connected with Griffin on a seven-yard TD play, capping a seven-play, 45-yard drive. Fox scored the two-point conversion and the Tornadoes led 28-27 with 3:21 left.

On the second play following the kickoff, Day bolted for 46-yard run to give his team a first down on the Philadelphia 13-yard line. Mathis carried it the rest of the way on the next play. The try for two failed and the Rockets led 33-28 with 2:07 remaining.

With time ticking away, Philadelphia took the kickoff and drove down to the Rockets’ eight-yard line. But on fourth down with nine seconds remaining, a pass fell incomplete in the end zone and the Rockets had held on for the victory.

Christian Spears was the leading tackler for the Rockets with 11. Colin Hunt had seven while Day and Hunter both had six.

Both teams will be back in action Friday night. Neshoba Central hosts West Lauderdale while the Tornadoes travel to Kemper County.