Before the 2012 season started, Neshoba Central head coach Chuck Friend said his Rockets would have to reach the level of being able to beat teams like Starkville if they hoped to move on to the state football playoffs.

This Friday night, the Rockets travel to Starkville for a must-win prep football game with Starkville.

The Rockets are coming off a 51-8 victory over Lanier Friday night. They improved to 5-5 overall and 3-3 in the Region 2-5A standings. If they win, they make the playoffs; lose and the season is likely to be over.

The playoff picture is still very much up in the air for Region 2-5A on the last week of the regular season.

Starkville comes in with a 7-3 overall record and 6-0 in the region standings. Ridgeland is the No. 2 team with a 5-1 region record, their only league loss coming to Starkville 23-0. Neshoba Central, along with Callaway and Provine, stands at 3-3 in the region standings. Provine plays Ridgeland and Callaway plays Yazoo City. The Rockets have beaten Provine 7-6, and lost to Callaway, 26-25.

"We'll just have to try and win our game with Starkville and see where things fall," Coach Friend said. "We have got to avoid mistakes and turnovers. You can't do that against a team like Starkville. But we can do it."

The Rockets celebrated homecoming with a convincing win over winless Lanier. Neshoba Central had 208 rushing yards on 27 carries, and completed 5-of-8 passes for 113 yards, giving them 321 total yards. Lanier's 98 yards came on the ground.

Neshoba Central jumped out to 16-0 lead in the first quarter. O'Neal McCarty opened the scoring with a five-yard run and added the two point conversion to put his team up 8-0. Deon Cole added another touchdown later in the first quarter on an 11-yard run. The extra point try failed and Neshoba Central went up 14-0.

The Rockets got two more points in the first quarter when Lanier snapped the ball out of the end zone for a safety. Going into the second quarter, Neshoba Central held a 16-0 lead.

Neshoba Central really turned it on in the second quarter. McCarty scored twice on runs of 14 and six yards. Junior quarterback Joseph Tullos connected with Shundrick Russell on a 33-yard TD pass play, and Kendrick McKinney scored on a 35-yard run. Taylor Irby kicked all of the extra points and the Rockets led 44-0 at the half.

Coach Friend pulled his first team offense in the second half and played his entire bench. The only Neshoba Central score came in the third quarter on a 12-yard run. The extra point kick was good and the Rockets led 51-0. Lanier scored its only points in the fourth quarter.

Rocket notebook: Both Neshoba Central soccer teams participated in the East Central Community College jamboree. All games last 20 minutes. The Rockets went 2-0-2, beating Choctaw Central 3-0 and Newton County 2-1, and tying both Clarkdale 0-0 and Germantown 1-1. The girls went 0-1-3, losing to Germantown 3-0 and tying Clarkdale, Choctaw Central and Newton County. These games do not count on a team's record.

The Neshoba Central soccer teams will open their 2012-2013 season on Saturday at home against Choctaw Central. The girls game starts at noon with the boys game to follow.

The Neshoba Central girls basketball team split a pair of jamboree games at Southeast Lauderdale last Saturday. The Lady Rockets defeated Kemper County and then dropped a game to Southeast Lauderdale. Neshoba Central opens its basketball season at Ridgeland High School on Saturday. The Rockets then visit West Lauderdale on Tuesday and Union on Thursday.