Ben McGregor’s first touch of his senior season was a 15-yard touchdown run. He took his second touch to the house on a 49-yard scamper. He broke loose again on his third carry for a 48-yard touchdown.
That was the end of his night — three carries for 112 yards and three touchdowns.
And the Centreville Academy running back hasn’t slowed down since.
Six games into the 2021 season, McGregor has rushed 111 times for 910 yards (8.2 per attempt) and a mind-bending 17 touchdowns. His four receptions have amassed a total of 85 yards, including a gain of 63. Centreville is 5-1 and believes it can contend for the MAIS 3A state title.
“I really put in a lot of work in the summer, and I've been working since I moved down here,” McGregor said. “It's all just starting to finally pay off and I (have to thank) everybody that’s a part of my life right now, and God — He’s been the biggest help.”
After his touchdowns-only season debut, McGregor reeled off 184 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the Tigers’ second game. He ran for 129, 134 and 199 yards in the ensuing contests, averaging three touchdowns along the way. Ahead of Centreville’s matchup with Silliman last Friday, he was held out of practice all week as he rehabbed a knee injury, but dressed for the game, entered in the second half and finished with 152 yards and two scores on 21 carries.
It’s been a long, winding journey to this breakthrough season.
McGregor moved to Southwest Mississippi from Hot Springs, Ark., after eighth grade, when his father, who graduated from Centreville, got a job in the area. McGregor began his high school career at Parklane Academy under head coach Brian Stutzman, a high school classmate and longtime friend of McGregor’s father.
“Ben’s a good player and ... a great kid,” Stutzman said. “He’s always happy, he's a player to be around, (and I’m) proud of everything that he can accomplish on the field and want him to exercise that in the classroom and in life.”
After three seasons at Parklane, McGregor transferred to Centreville last winter. It gave him a chance to be closer to his great grandfather, who’s 89 and wasn’t always able to see Ben play roughly 45 minutes away in McComb.
Football wasn’t the primary motivation for the move, McGregor says, but it worked out in that sense as well. Stutzman is now an assistant coach for the Tigers, and the head coach, Bill Hurst, is the winningest high school coach in Mississippi history. Centreville’s run-heavy offense and a smaller roster also meant greater opportunity for McGregor, who was part of a crowded backfield rotation with the Pioneers.
It also worked out in a different sport — track and field. McGregor, a former hurdler, took to the high jump in eighth grade and immediately turned heads when he cleared six feet while practicing with high schoolers. This spring, he won the 2A South State title in the event and was part of Centreville’s championship-winning team.
“It felt great,” McGregor said. “I’d moved, I’d made a whole lot of new friends that I could consider having for life, and we all just came together and we won the state track meet.”
Back on the gridiron, McGregor’s eye-popping stats are starting to draw the attention of some college coaches. He says he’s been in contact with recruiters at Jackson State and knows Southern Miss scouts were at the Tigers’ game against Adams County Christian, where McGregor ran for 199 yards in a loss.
While his recruitment is just starting to pick up, a chance to play college ball has been a goal of McGregor’s for years.
“I’ve been dreaming about it ever since I was, like, four foot tall,” he said. “That'd be amazing.”
This weekend will be another prime opportunity for McGregor to showcase his talent, as the Tigers host 5-0 Central Hinds, a 5A school. Centreville also hosts 4A Brookhaven Academy next month in addition to its district schedule.
Whatever happens from here, though, it’s clear McGregor has made the most of this chance.
“He’s just now really got a chance to show his value on the football field,” Stutzman said. “There’s opportunities for Ben out there, and he’s just got to find the right fit.”