Neshoba Central's Tyler Mathis (18) eyes down the defender of Lake Cormorant Friday night.
Neshoba Central's Tyler Mathis (18) eyes down the defender of Lake Cormorant Friday night.
The Neshoba Central Rockets have advanced to the North State Class 5A championship game with a 36-28 victory over Lake Cormorant last Friday night in prep football action.

The Rockets will travel to West Point Friday to challenge the three-time class 5A state champion West Point Green Wave who advanced to the North State championship game by defeating Lafayette 21-14 last week. Neshoba Central enters the game with a 10-3 record while West Point comes in at 13-1.

“They are who they are and this is going to be another challenge for us,” Coach Patrick Schoolar said. “They are disciplined. They are a run heavy team. They are very physical on offense and defense.

“For us, it’s just another challenge. Our kids aren’t intimidated by anyone. We will show up, ready to play. We will show that we belong in this game.”

As in previous games, the Rockets trailed Lake Cormorant at the half but came back to take the victory.

“We had a good hard-fought victory over Lake Cormorant,” Schoolar said. “The defense did what they have done all year. They have been tremendous in the second half all year and that’s what we did last Friday night. They stopped Lake Cormorant and the offense found a way to score.”

Lake Cormorant took the opening kickoff. The Gators drove 69 yards in eight plays to score on a 31-yard TD pass. The kick was good and Lake Cormorant took a 7-0.

The Rockets answered. They took the ensuing kickoff and covered 63 yards in five plays. Tyler Mathis scored on 35-yard TD run. Hunter Bavetta kicked the extra point and the game was tied at 7-7 with 5:13 left in the first quarter.

Lake Cormorant retook the lead in the second quarter when Jaiden Gray ran four yards for a touchdown, capping six-play, 24-yard drive. The extra point was good and the Gators led 14-7 with 5:08 left in the half. And that’s how it stood at halftime.

Neshoba Central took the second half kickoff. The Rockets drove 49 yards in five plays with Jarquez Hunter scoring on a nine-yard run. The extra point was no good and the Gators led 14-13.

Later in the quarter, the Gators’ Fred Watson intercepted a pass and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown. The kick was good and the Gators trailed 21-13.

The Rockets answered. Austin Day returned the ensuing kickoff 67 yards to put Neshoba Central on the Lake Cormorant two-yard line. Two plays later, Hunter blasted into the end zone for touchdown. Hunter then ran in the two point conversion and the score was tied at 21-21 with 4:20 left in the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, Lake Cormorant blocked a Neshoba Central punt and Watson ran it in for a touchdown. The kick was good and Lake Cormorant led 28-21 with 11:45 left in the game.

The Rockets took the ensuing kickoff and drove 65 yards in 12 plays for touchdown. Hunter scored on a three-yard run. Mathis ran in the two-point conversion and the Rockets led for the first time in the game, 29-28.

The Rocket defense dug in and forced Lake Cormorant to punt. In three plays, Neshoba Central struck again. Hunter ran 54 yards for a touchdown. The kick was good and Neshoba led 36-28 with 3:13 left.

The defense held and that was the ball game.

Hunter put up big numbers on both sides of the ball. On offense, he rushed for 204 yards on 26 carries while scoring four touchdowns and one two point conversion. On defense, he finished with eight tackles and two sacks.

Mathis rushed 17 times for 110 yards and a touchdown. Austin Day had 81 total yards, including 68 return yards.

Kelbee Holmes and Jaharan Griffin both had 12 tackles.

Ty Matthews had nine tackles. Nick McClendon and Maxton Woodard had eight tackles. Elijah Ruffin had five tackles while Ray Gibson had four tackles.