Rockets run past Gators for 570 yards, 68 points

Published 2:20 am Saturday, September 29, 2018

There were times Friday night when Vicksburg High’s offense looked almost unstoppable. Unfortunately, its defense made Neshoba Central look that way the whole game.

Neshoba Central rushed for 570 yards — Jarquez Hunter had 222 yards and three touchdowns, and two other players finished with more than 100 yards — as it overwhelmed the Gators 68-42 on homecoming night at Memorial Stadium.

It was the second week in a row the Gators (1-4, 0-2 Region 2-5A) have allowed more than 50 points, the first time that has happened since the 2012 season. The 68 points were the most a Vicksburg team has surrendered since a 72-28 loss to Tylertown in 2012.

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“Sixty-eight points speaks for itself,” Vicksburg coach Tim Hughes said. “We couldn’t tackle, couldn’t get off the blocks, couldn’t do anything that you’re supposed to do on defense.”

Neshoba Central (6-1, 1-1) only threw two passes in the game, both for touchdowns. Quarterback Austin Day hit Hunter for a 27-yard TD pass on a fourth-and-19 on the Rockets’ opening drive, and connected with Robby Ellis for a 10-yard score with 24 seconds left in the first half.

Everything else was a run for the Rockets. They averaged 11 yards per carry and had nine runs of 19 yards or more. Tyler Mathis finished with 148 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries, while Cadarrius Roberts totaled 119 yards and one TD on only seven carries.

Despite that dominance, Vicksburg showed some explosiveness of its own and threatened to make a game of it in the second half.

After Ellis’ touchdown catch gave the Rockets a 34-6 lead, Vicksburg hit on two long touchdown passes on the final play of the first half and the first play of the second to get it back to a two-score game.

On the final play of the first half, quarterback Levi Wyatt scrambled around for nearly 10 seconds before launching a 40-yard bomb to a wide-open Robert Wilson in the end zone. On the other side of the break, Cedric Phillips turned a short completion into a 61-yard touchdown that cut it to 34-20.

After Roberts broke a 69-yard run to the VHS 2-yard line and scored on the next play, Wyatt engineered another scoring drive capped by a 9-yard TD pass to running back Tacarie Stewart to keep it at 41-28.
Neshoba started pulling away from there, however.

Hunter ripped off touchdown runs of 64 and 9 yards, and then put the capper on a big quarter with a defensive touchdown in the final minute. Wyatt, looking to the sideline for the play call, never saw an early snap that hit him in the helmet. Hunter scooped up the loose ball and returned it 36 yards for his fifth touchdown of the game and a 62-28 Neshoba lead.

“We were trying to survive. We were one score down, two scores down, and all of a sudden it was three because it didn’t look like we had any juice going on with the defense,” Hughes said. “It sets it up to where it’s something where we can’t get a turnover and get lucky on something like that. It came more from some sourness on the sideline that brought the momentum flip, rather than the turnover.”

The Gators added a couple of touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but never got closer than 26 points.
Wyatt, a sophomore, had a career-high 378 yards and four touchdowns on 24-of-34 passing. Tyrese Wolfe caught nine passes for 142 yards and a touchdown, and Wilson had five grabs for 89 yards and a TD. Phillips had three receptions for 80 yards.

Stewart had 126 total yards — 88 rushing and 38 receiving — and scored one touchdown on the ground and another through the air.

It was another impressive showing for a VHS offense that scored only six points in its first two games. The Gators have scored 42 or more twice and a total of 115 in their last three games. They only have one win to show for it, however, which a frustrated Hughes said has to change.

“I think (the offense) competed. We did not play as a team together tonight. It was very disjointed, and that led to a very sour outlook throughout the night. That happens when bad things are happening like that. It’s just something we have to clean up,” Hughes said. “I think they’re going to be there. But once again, it has to happen as a team or it’s not going to do us any good. Individual accolades aren’t going to be good if it doesn’t come with some team wins.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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