COLUMBIA, Miss. (WDAM) _ For the first half of the Marion County Showdown Thursday night, West Marion High School learned, as the expression goes, that one can not stop Columbia High School running back Kentrel Bullock, but only hope to contain him.
In the second half, the Trojans were unable to do even that.
Bullock ran for 226 yards and four touchdowns on 18 carries and added a 2-point conversion run for good measure to lead the unbeaten Wildcats to a 33-14 victory over the visiting Trojans.
“I’m prejudiced, but in my opinion, he’s the best running back in the state of Mississippi,” Columbia High coach Chip Bilderback said. “He does what we need him to do, but Kentrel will be the first to tell you, he’s got a physical offensive line.
“He works extremely hard and he’s strong, but he’s also got another back next to him (sophomore Omar Johnson) that when he needs a breather, is just as good, too, and can pound the rock.”
The victory not only left the Marion County Trophy in the paws of the Wildcats for a second consecutive year, but allowed Columbia (8-0, 3-0 Region 8-3A) to clinch a spot in the postseason while seizing control of the region.
“Yes, we’ll be one of the four (postseason teams), but our region’s so tough we still could be (ranked) anywhere, so we’ve got to buckle it up and get ready to go,” Bilderback said.
West Marion (8-1, 2-1) stayed with Wildcats, mainly on the arm of senior quarterback Jeremiah Holmes.
With the ground game managing netting just 25 yards on the night, Holmes spent most the night under heavy duress. Still, he completed 24-of-35 passes for 253 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions.,
But the Trojans got hit with three huge plays in the second half on the way to their first loss of the season.
“They took away our run game," West Marion coach Brad Duncan said. "But it’s like the old Denny Green quote, ‘They are who we thought they were.’ They’re a very good football team. They really are.”
Bullock sowed the whirlwind in the first half, rushing for 56 yards and two scores in an entertaining, hard-hitting affair that saw Columbia holding a 14-7 halftime lead.
Then came the storm
After West Marion was forced to punt the ball away to open the third quarter, the Wildcats took over on the Trojans’ 37-yard line, and Bullock took over the game.
Following a huge blocker though a big hole over the left edge, Bullock set sail down the sideline for a 63-yard touchdown run that put the Wildcats ahead 20-7.
The Trojans took the kickoff and drove to a first-and-goal, only to turn the ball over on downs at the Wildcats’ 2-yard line.
On the first play, Bullock blasted through the middle, and by midfield, West Marion’s pursuit had pulled up, helpless to stop the 98-yard score.
At that point in the third quarter, Columbia’s offense had consisted of two plays, with Bullock carrying twice for 161 yards and two touchdowns to give the Wildcats a 26-7 lead.
“Big plays, and that’s what we’ve talked about, he’s done that all year,” Duncan said. “Kentrel is a really good back. He had 21 touchdowns through seven games because of big plays, so we wanted to try and limit that.
“But we gave up a couple, and it ended up costing us, man.”
The teams ended up swapping touchdowns down the stretch.
Columbia senior safety Jamison Kelly Jr. picked off Holmes and returned the interception 48 yards for a 33-7 lead.
Holmes, who had scored on 1-yard quarterback sneak to give the Trojans a 7-6 lead in the first quarter, threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to junior Qavonte Swanigan with 3 ½ minutes to play to round out the scoring.
Swanigan finished with 11 catches for 148 yards and a touchdown. Junior Omarion Husband caught two passes for 30 yards.
Columbia will host Seminary High School at 7 p.m. Friday, while West Marion will travel to Tylertown High School at 7 p.m. Friday.