Last-second field goal leads to win

Last-second field goal leads to win

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Hunter Bavetta kicked a 36-yard field goal in the final seconds to lift the Neshoba Central Rockets to a 27-24 victory over Lake Cormorant in the first round of the Class 5A state football playoffs.

The Rockets, now 11-0, will host Lafayette Friday night in the second round. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Lafayette comes into the game with a 10-2 record. They opened the playoffs with a 43-16 win over Holmes County Central.

The Gators led 17-7 at the half and 24-7 early in the third quarter. Coach Patrick Schoolar said his team kept playing to the end and pulled out the victory.

“We played better in the second half,” Schoolar said. “Their quarterback was a three-year starter and he was going to make plays. We knew he was going to be tough.

“But we weren’t ready for our season to be over. It was will and determination. We found a way to win. You never give up. Our theme is survive and advance. Do what you have to do. We did that.”

The Gators scored on their second possession. They appeared to be lining up for a field goal. But then the ball was snapped to quarterback Telvin Amos, who ran it in from 10 yards out. The kick was good and the Gators led 7-0 with 5:04 left in the first quarter.

Neshoba Central came back to tie the game. The Rockets took the kickoff on their own 35-yard line and put together a 14-play drive. Quarterback Eli Anderson connected with Ja’Naylon Dupree, who fumbled going the end zone. Bryceton Spencer recovered the ball for the touchdown. Bavetta kicked the extra point and the game was tied at 7-7 early in the second quarter.

Lake Cormorant came back in the second period and scored when Amos connected with Jeremy Henderson on a 23-yard TD pass. The extra point was good and the Gators led 14-7 with 5:26 remaining.

An interception led to the final Lake Cormorant points of the second quarter. With time running out, the Gators kicked a 36-yard field goal and went up 17-7 at the half.

The Rockets punted four plays after taking the second-half kickoff. Amos scored on a 61-yard run. The extra-point kick was good and Lake Cormorant led 24-7.

The Rockets kept playing. They took the kickoff on their own 46 and put it in the end zone in seven plays. Ken Drummond ran 23 yards for a touchdown. Bavetta kicked the extra point and the Gators’ led 24-14. That’s how it stood at the end of the third quarter.

The Rockets pulled to within 3 points when Anderson ran 2 yards for a touchdown. Bavetta’s kick was good and the Gators’ lead was cut to 3 points, 24-21, with 9:30 left in the final quarter.

With 2:04  remaining on the clock, Bavetta kicked a 25-yard field goal to tie the game at 24-24.

The Gators took the kickoff and ran six plays before punting.

On fourth down, the Rockets lined up for a 50-yard field attempt. But then Schoolar decided to go for the first down. Anderson connected with Spencer to put the ball on the Lake Cormorant 18-yard with 6 seconds left. Bavetta proceeded to kick a 36-yard field goal and Neshoba advanced to the next round of the playoffs.

“I felt like we could make a play and get better field position,” Schoolar said. “It would have been a long kick, and I didn’t want to put that on the kicker.”

The Rockets finished with 18 first downs and 335 total yards. Anderson completed 19-of-29 passing attempts for 205 yards. The Rockets rushed for 155 yards, led by Drummond with 100 yards. Spencer had four catches for 68 yards, while Dez McWilliams had seven catches for 63 yards.





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