Olive Branch-Neshoba Central football

Neshoba Central tacklers converge on Olive Branch running back Gary Banks II during the first quarter of Friday’s MHSAA 5A first round playoff game at Olive Branch. The Conquistadors advanced with a 24-20 victory over the visiting Rockets.

Two of the four coverage area high school football teams are still playing in the playoffs after last Friday’s action.

In what should be one of the top games in the state this fall, Horn Lake (12-0) hosts Starkville (11-1) Friday night in the second round of the MHSAA 6A playoffs with the winner moving into the 6A North Half championship game the following week against either Madison Central (9-3) or Northwest Rankin (11-1).

At the same time this Friday, another encounter will have Olive Branch (11-1) traveling to Holmes County Central (11-1) in a 5A second round contest that has the winner heading into the North Half finals the following Friday.

An Olive Branch victory this Friday would have the Quistors playing one of two Region 1-5A foes they’ve already played this fall, Lafayette or West Point. Olive Branch beat Lafayette 24-21 on Oct. 26 but suffered a last-minute loss at home to West Point 34-33 two weeks earlier on Oct. 12.

Holmes County Central’s success last Friday came at the hands of the Lake Cormorant Gators in a 29-14 Jaguars’ first-round victory.

The other coverage area school, Magnolia Heights (7-4), saw its season end with its 27-23 loss at home to Simpson County Academy.

Simpson will meet Lamar for the MAIS AAAA-D2 state championship this week in Jackson.

In Friday’s 19-0 Horn Lake victory over Warren Central, Patrick Gilliam’s 89 yards paced an Eagles’ running attack bolstered by a strong defensive effort against the Vikings.

Horn Lake generated 242 yards of total offense, including 210 yards on the ground. The Eagles’ defense held the Vikings to just 61 yards of total offense the entire night.

Gilliam’s performance came on 27 carries for his 89 yards, Jamario Harris carried 12 times for 50 yards and a touchdown and quarterback Raydarius Jones ran 11 times for 48 yards.

Horn Lake led 12-0 at halftime and added another score in the fourth quarter.

At Olive Branch, the Conquistadors and Rockets (10-3) traded scores back-and-forth in the cold night air with the home team leading 21-20 at halftime. Gary Banks II scored two touchdowns for the Quistors while Javien Adams’ 70-yard kickoff return accounted for Olive Branch’s 21 points in the first half.

Neshoba Central equaled the Quistors’ three touchdowns but failed on two of three point-after attempts; the only success coming after Marquez Hunter’s third touchdown of the night.

Cole Stoddard’s 25-yard field goal in the third quarter for the Quistors became the only points scored after intermission.

The Olive Branch defense became the difference in the game, stopping Neshoba Central’s strong running attack eight straight times to end the game, forcing two punts, a fumble, a turnover by interception and the Rockets fizzled on four fourth-down attempts.

“They turned it on the second half and thank goodness they did, because our offense turned it off,” Turner said. “The good thing is we won and I can say that.”

Banks carried 18 times for 76 yards and two scores and Josh Stevenson caught both pass completions thrown by quarterback Cole Catledge for 44 yards.

In the loss to Holmes County Central, Lake Cormorant was held to 82 yards of offense, 39 of which came from Jalen Jordan. The Gators finished with a 6-6 record.

At Magnolia Heights, Josh Tyson connected on a field goal, Garrin Windham scored from 42 and 59 yards out and Blake Kirby found Garret Chance for a six-yard touchdown completion against Simpson County Academy.

Bob Bakken is Sports Editor for the DeSoto Times Tribune.

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