Neshoba Central linebacker Jaharan Griffin celebrates a big stop of a West Lauderdale  ball carrier.
Neshoba Central linebacker Jaharan Griffin celebrates a big stop of a West Lauderdale ball carrier.
Football is a team sport and everyone contributes. But often it takes an outstanding individual effort make the difference.

Sophomore Jarquez Hunter had one of those games Friday night in Neshoba Central’s 14-13 overtime victory over West Lauderdale.

The Rockets and the Knights slugged out in an intensive struggle for four quarters and one overtime period. Hunter was one of the ones who went both ways the entire game. He led the team in rushing with 73 yards and ran in the winning touchdown. Hunter also had eight tackles along with a quarterback sack and a fumble recovery.

“It was a good game and we just refused to quit,” Hunter said. “We worked hard this summer and it is paying off. We bent but we held them out. This was a big win.”

Indeed it was. The Rockets are 4-0 for the first time in a while. They host Northeast Lauderdale this Friday night. The Trojans come in at 3-1 following last week’s 31-14 loss to Jackson Academy.

Interestingly, West Lauderdale finished with 294 total yards while the Rockets accumulated 149 total markers. The difference, the Rockets outrushed the Knights 149-121 yards. But Neshoba Central only attempted one pass and it was incomplete. West Lauderdale completed 10-of-18 passing attempts for 173 yards.

But until further notice, the Rockets are a team that runs the ball and plays hard-nose defense. Two seniors who anchor the Neshoba Central defense are linebackers Colin Hunt and Christian Spears.

Against West Lauderdale, Spears led the team with 16 tackles, an interception, a sack and a blocked punt. Hunt caused a fumble and finished with 15 tackles.

“We were determined,” Hunt said. “We have set our goals high this year and we aren’t going back away.”

“It is great to be a Rocket,” Spears said. “We keep coming back and don’t give up. We may get beaten on one play but we will be back, giving it our all on the next one. We beat a solid team tonight.”

Hunter recovered a fumble in the first quarter which gave the Rockets a first down on the West Lauderdale seven-yard line. Running back Tyler Mathis and Hunter each had a gain of three yards. On third down, Mathis ran it in from two yards out. Kaleb Bradley kicked the extra point and the Rockets led 7-0 with 5:23 left in the first quarter.

West Lauderdale threw an interception two downs after the kickoff. But Neshoba Central then fumbled the ball away. That would set up a Knights touchdown when Jason McKinney caught a 67-yard TD pass from Austin Davidson. The extra point kick was good and the game was tied at 7-7 with 1:51 left in the first quarter.

That’s how it stood until regulation time expired at the end of the fourth quarter. Both teams battled hard. Again and again, both defenses came up with critical stands to stop the other. Both teams had chances to win it. The Knights missed a field goal; the Rockets were headed for a touchdown before fumbling the ball into the end zone from less than a yard out.

The game went into overtime. Neshoba Central got the ball first and Hunter ran up the middle from five yards out to score a touchdown. Bradley kicked the extra point and the Rockets led 14-7.

The Knights had their chance. McKinney caught a nine-yard touchdown pass on fourth down. But the snap for the extra point was a little low and the kick was no good.

The Rockets had won the game.

“Our kids played a heck of a game,” Coach Patrick Schoolar said. “Our defense played lights out. We stayed with our running game. That’s what we are. We have worked hard and our kids deserve all the credit.”

West Lauderdale drops to 3-1. The Knights host Kemper County this Friday night.