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Friend frustrated the Rockets have not run ball better

October 31, 2012

Coach Chuck Friend doesn't like it when he has a team that's not able to run the football effectively.

Over the years, Friend's offensive philosophy has been to run and acquired the nickname "Ground Chuck" because of it.

Friend said the Neshoba Central Rockets have struggled in that area this season.

"We've had very little success in running the football," Friend said. "We like to do that, but haven't been able to do that. It's going to be a tough challenge to be able to do that Friday night."

Friend's Rockets travel to Starkville to take on the Yellowjackets in the final Class 5A, Region 2, District 6 game of the regular season. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

Even though Neshoba Central is not producing in the run game like Friend wants, it still averages 146.6 yards per game on the ground, but only 72.4 yards per outing through the air.

Friend's frustration comes from considering all of those numbers.

"It's probably one of the worse offensive teams I've ever coached to be honest," Friend said. "We're not very good up front with the offensively line. We were hoping to be better in that area, but it hasn't turned out that way.

"There were a couple of games where we lost our quarterback and our best returning running back tore his ACL. The only good thing about it is he's still playing, but he hasn't been as effective. That's hurt us some. With that, we're down to 9th graders and two of our starting running backs are 9th graders."

Senior O'Neal McCarty leads the Rockets in rushing with 421 yards on 80 carries and eight touchdowns, while junior Patrick Burrage adds with 65 carries for 331 yards.

In the passing department, junior Joseph Willis has completed 48-of-111 attempts for 677 yards and only two touchdowns. His main target has been senior Shundrick Russell with 19 catches for 339 yards and two scores.

Neshoba Central has broken even in overall record 5-5 and in the region 3-3.

Friend said there have been a couple of tough losses that may have kept the Rockets from being more of a factor in the region race.

"We've had an up and down season," Friend said. "In our division, we've squandered away a couple of games that we felt like we should have won. It really hurt our playoff chances. The nearly impossible would have to happen for us to be in the hunt and it would have to start with a win over Starkville. Our chances are probably been pretty slim."

Friday will be a homecoming for Friend, who was once the head coach at SHS and won state championships with the Yellowjackets in 1994 and 1995.

"It will be a big night to play there in that stadium and get a chance to stand on the other sideline," Friend said.

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