TUCHLA - The Neshoba Central Rockets held off a late drive by Holmes County Central to score a 27-20 victory in the Region 2-5A opener for both teams.

Coach Patrick Schoolar called the win his biggest in his four seasons with the Rockets. The Rockets improve to 2-3 overall and will host Vicksburg High School for homecoming this Friday night.

“The games we played on our non-region schedule helped us get ready for this game,” Schoolar said. “Our kids played hard. We went up. They came back and we were down. And then we came back and held on for the win.

“It was a great win. We beat a very good football team tonight. They have some outstanding players who will be playing on the next level. We have a chance finish as the No. 1 team in our region and to host a playoff game.”

The Rocket defense held Holmes to 277 total yards. Of that, 27 came on the ground and the rest was passing.

“Our defense played a great game,” Schoolar said. “Nobody is going to shut Holmes out. But we held them out of the end zone when we needed to in the end,”           

Holmes took the opening kickoff and punted after four downs. The Rockets started on their own 40-yard line and put on a 10-play scoring drive. Quarterback Eli Anderson connected with Austin Day on a 26-yard TD pass play. The extra point try failed and the Rockets led 6-0 with 4:40 left in the first quarter.

Holmes County took the kickoff. Three plays later, the Jaguars went to the air and Day intercepted the pass and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown. Again the extra point failed and the Rockets led 12-0 with 3:53 left in the first quarter.

Holmes County came back with a scoring drive of its own. Senior quarterback Justin Smith scored on a two-yard run. The kick was good and the Jaguars led 12-7 with 25 seconds left in the first quarter.

The game was a defensive struggle for most of the remainder of the first half. As the clock was winding down, Anderson broke for a 20-yard TD run into the end zone. Tyler Mathis scored the two point conversion and the Rockets led 20-7 at the half.

Jarquez Hunter returned the second half kickoff 85-yards for a touchdown. Hunter Bavetta kicked the extra point and the Rockets led 27-7.

The Jaguars took the ensuing kickoff and drove 76 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown.  Smith passed to Cory Ellington for a 17-yard TD pass play. The kick was good and Holmes County trailed 27-14 with 8:18 left in the third quarter.

Holmes County held Neshoba Central to four downs and forced a punt. Four plays later, Smith connected with Ellington on a 45-yard TD pass play. The extra point was good and the Rockets’ lead was cut to 27-20 with 5:10 left in the third quarter.

Again the defense took over and there was no scoring in the time remaining. With the clock winding down,  Holmes drove down to the Rockets’ nine-yard line. They ran four plays and the Rocket defense stopped them each time.

Jaharah Griffin, Nick McClendon and Maxton Woodard all had eight tackles for the Rockets while Kelbee Holmes had seven tackles and Ray Gibson had six tackles. Day had two interceptions and four tackles.

The Rockets had 240 total yards on offense. Anderson completed 8-of-15 passing attempts for 118 yards. The Rockets rushed for 122 yards. Tyler Mathis was the leading rusher with 71 yards on 19 carries, Hunter rushed for 50 yards on 14 carries. Day caught three passes for 46 yards.

The Rockets were penalized six time for 60 yards while the Jaguars were called for five penalties for a loss of 35 yards.

The Rockets host Vicksburg Friday. The Gators come in with a 1-4 record with their only win coming over Velma Jackson, 19-14.