Top 10 Countdown: No. 7 Neshoba Central

Neshoba Central senior Jarquez Hunter rushed for 2,088 yards and 29TD's last year, averaging 9.8 yards per carry. (Photo by Chris Brooks)

Neshoba Central will open the season as our No. 7 ranked team in our preseason Top 10. The Rockets have been slowly building the last several years under head coach Patrick Schoolar. They turned the corner two years ago with a 10-3 campaign and followed with a 10-4 mark a year ago that ended in the North State Championship Game. The Rockets hung with four-time defending state champ West Point in that game before falling 20-7. They are prepared for a big 2020 season.

No. 7: Neshoba Central Rockets

Head Coach: Patrick Schoolar

2019 Record: 10-4 (Class 5A semifinalist)

Starters Returning: Offense: 5 Defense: 8

Players to Watch: RB Jarquez Hunter; QB Eli Anderson; LB Jaharan Griffin; LB Kelbee Holmes; LB Ty Matthews; DT Maxton Woodward; DT Landon Case.

Coach Speak: “We are a program that is where we want it to be,” said Neshoba Central coach Patrick Schoolar. “We’re going to get everyone’s best shot and we’re going to give them our best shot. It is no big secret that everything will go through Hunter. We’re going to be different offensively. Having one of the top players in the state and also our quarterback back is huge. We have some young guys that can step in, just they’re going to have to learn quick. Defense will be our strong suit until the offense gets going. It starts up front with us and our front seven will be our strength. Jarquez will line up in several spots on defense. We have depth in all spots on both sides of the ball, so we will use that to our advantage. We play in a really athletic division and we compete very well with them. We are an extremely mentally tough football team. To win games in the playoffs you have to build a tough, physical, defensive football team and that’s what we are.”

Outlook: Neshoba Central piled up the running yards last season, finishing with 3,974 yards as a team with 48 touchdowns. They return 31 of those touchdowns with Jarquez Hunter accounting for 29 himself last year. In addition, he ran for 2,088 yards on just 213 carries for a 9.8 yards per carry average. He is joined in the backfield by returning starting quarterback Eli Anderson. The rising junior threw for 987 yards and ten touchdowns last season. The defense welcomes back eight starters including seven of last year’s eight leading tacklers. The top four tacklers last season were all sophomores or freshmen. The leading tackler is junior Jaharon Griffin who finished with 156 stops at linebacker. Junior Kelbee Holmes had 141 tackles and junior Ty Matthews added 107, both at linebacker. Sophomore Elijah Ruffin had 86 total tackles. Jarquez Hunter will also see plenty of snaps on the defensive side where he is a difference-maker all over the field.

Season Opener: Sept. 4 vs. Tupelo.