BREESE — After a 90-minute lightning delay at Central High School on Friday, Columbia senior running back Charles Farris quickly delivered the thunder.
Farris piled up a season-high 258 yards and scored three touchdowns as the Eagles rolled over Central 49-13 to nail down the Cahokia Conference championship.
The wet, muddy surface seemed perfectly suited to Farris four-wheel drive approach to running.
"He's a horse," Columbia coach Scott Horner said. "Our running game's been really good the last four weeks or so, and he's been a big part of it. I think he showed tonight how tough he is to tackle when he gets his pad level low and he's going forward."
Columbia, ranked second in the News-Democrat Small-School Poll, improved to 6-1 overall and 5-0 in conference play. Central dropped to 3-4 overall and 3-2 in the league.
Columbia finished with 441 yards rushing on 53 carries with Farris doing much of the damage.
"What a tremendous kid and what a tremendous running back," Central coach Brian Short said. "He's a kid that's fought a lot of adversity in his career, been hurt a lot, and he's getting every ounce out of his senior year.
"That's all you can ask out of a kid like that."
Horner's team ended Central's recent hold on the conference title.
"It feels good," he said. "Central's had it the last three years and our kids wanted it outright, they didn't want to mess around. I'm pretty proud of them.
"It was kind of a crazy night with everything that was going on, so credit to our kids for keeping their heads and playing well."
Farris and Columbia's effective offensive line rolled up 189 yards on 19 carries by halftime, including a pair of touchdown runs and a 48-yard journey through the Central defense.
Central fumbled on its first possession, setting up a 2-yard TD run by Columbia's Camren Shewfelt as the Eagles grabbed a 7-0 lead.
After Farris tacked on a 1-yard TD run to make it 14-0, Central answered on a 62-yard touchdown pass from Austin Rickhoff to Cameron Voss late in the first quarter.
Farris' 48-yard run negated any momentum by the Cougars and he reached the end zone again from 20 yards out with 9 minutes, 39 seconds remaining in the first half. Quinten Spivey's extra-point gave Columbia a 21-7 lead.
Two Columbia turnovers gave the Cougars great field position deep in the Eagles' end in the second quarter, but Central failed to capitalize either time.
Playing on a wet field, dropped passes were a factor for Central throughout the first half along with Columbia's stingy pass defense. Rickhoff completed 4-of-15 passes in the first half, but had one potential TD pass dropped along with another at the 2-yard line.
The area passing leader was 10-for-27 on the night for 135 yards and one TD.
"A lot of miscues," Short said. "We had guys in the right spots offensively and defensively, especially in the first half. Not having the ability to catch the ball and to stand on our feet and tackle people really affected us tonight."
Horner was happy to see his defense respond against Central's potent air attack.
"We knew we were going to be tested," he said. "That was good for us to be able to see something like that because I'm sure we'll see it down the road."
Columbia's Eric Read took a pitch and finished off a 45-yard TD run with 1:20 remaining in the first half as the Eagles' lead ballooned to 27-7.
Santanello ran for two more TDs in the third quarter, including a 40-yarder, and Farris contributed another.
Contact reporter Norm Sanders at email@example.com or 239-2454.