The clash of the unbeatens Oct. 17 between Columbia (8-0, 3-0) and West Marion (8-1, 2-1) was decided by the legs Wildcats running back Kentrel Bullock. The Ole Miss commit guided Columbia to a 33-14 home victory with 213 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Bullock had two back-breaking touchdowns of 63 and 98 yards on back-to-back carries to open the third quarter that ultimately split the game open and sealed the Marion County Football Championship for Columbia for the second consecutive year.
“Kentrel is a difference maker,” West Marion head coach Brad Duncan said. “I’ve been here since ’97, and I coached against a kid from Collins that ended up at Nebraska and there was a kid at Seminary that ended up dropping out, but Kentrel is as good as I’ve ever coach against, seriously. Kentrel can go.”
The Trojans actually held Bullock to three yards or less on 14 of his 21 carries, and seven of them were for no gain or negative yardage. Duncan said he was proud of the way West Marion’s defense played and that Bullock’s two long touchdowns are indicative of what good backs do.
“If you give them one little opportunity, they’re going to take it to the house,” he said.
Columbia head coach Chip Bilderback said the combination of two 190-pound backs in Bullock and Omarie Johnson takes a toll on a defense, and it really shows in the third and fourth quarters.
“We told our team that when you play a defense like that, you’re going to have some plays that may just go one or two yards, but you just have to keep pounding and keep pounding, and eventually it will crack,” he said. “Kentrel, what makes him special to me is he has breakaway speed that’s really exceptional and elite, but he’s also physical enough that he can run through tackles.”
The Wildcats defense was equally impressive as it forced five West Marion punts, two turnovers on downs and two interceptions.
“We ran to the ball really well, and I think we got after them,” Bilderback said. “Late in the game they had some success on some things, but for the most part our defense did what it needed to do.”
“Offense, offense, offense, I can’t get none,” Duncan said. “It’s the same place we were last year. As long as we’re playing against those slower kids, we make big plays. We didn’t block anybody in those wins. We were able to outrun those other guys. In district play we can’t outrun these people.”
After a West Marion interception was negated by a holding penalty on the opening drive, Bullock scored his first touchdown from 12 yards and carried two West Marion defenders into the end zone from the 6-yard line. Had the interception stood, West Marion would have taken over at the Columbia 45 and a Trojans score would have been a two-touchdown swing.
The Trojans responded midway through the second quarter following a Columbia turnover. Wildcats quarterback Javen Moses attempted to throw a swing pass to Bullock, but it was behind him, ruled a lateral and recovered by Trojans defensive end Ka’Marius Husband at the Columbia 6. Three plays later, West Marion quarterback Jeremiah Holmes bulled his way into the end zone for a 1-yard score that gave the Trojans a 7-6 lead.
A 37-yard pass from Moses to Daqwan Jones, who beat Larry Magee on a go route, on the ensuing possession preceded a 1-yard touchdown by Bullock. The Wildcats converted the 2-point try and went into halftime with a 14-7 lead.
Columbia’s defense forced a 3-and-out on the opening drive of the second half, then Bullock found a huge seam on the first play of the drive and raced 63 yards to pay dirt to make it 20-7. The hole opened up thanks to a solid block by a pulling Christian Rowell and a ghost motion by Tryson Johnson, which caused West Marion’s Josh Boone to leave his gap.
The Trojans then drove down into the red zone and got down to the Columbia 2, but a bad pitch by Holmes to Octavious Harvey forced them into a 4th-and-goal from the 15. West Marion was ultimately stopped at the Columbia 2 for a turnover on downs as O’Marion Husband got stuffed after catching a crossing route.
Once again on the very next play, Bullock sprinted through a big hole and went the distance for a 98-yard touchdown that made it 26-7 midway through the third quarter. The Trojans blitzed the B-gap between the guard and tackle, while Bullock accelerated through the A-gap between the center and guard untouched.
“That breaks your back,” Duncan said.
“Our offense came up with some big plays, and that’s kind of what we’ve done a lot this year,” Bilderback said. “They’re a really good team and a really well-rounded team — they’re really, really good on defense, they’re solid on offense and have a great kicker in Duncan that can swing the field. So we knew it would be a tough challenge for us, but I thought we played well in all three phases of the game.”
Midway through the fourth quarter, Louisiana Tech commit and Columbia free safety Jamison Kelly added the cherry on top with a 49-yard interception return for a touchdown after jumping a skinny post.
The Trojans added a late score that made it 33-14 as Qavonte Swanigan caught a screen pass from Holmes and made a man miss for a 14-yard touchdown.
Bilderback said it was a great high school atmosphere, and it’s a credit to both teams for making it to Week 9 undefeated and being ranked the top two teams in Class 3A.
Pictured Above: Columbia's Jeremiah Haynes celebrates a sack against West Marion. | Photo by Joshua Campbell