Dillon

Dillon quarterback Jay Lester (left) and offensive lineman Avery Hewitt share a laugh while Lester answers a question Monday during the Class 3A state championship press conference in Columbia.

Morning News

COLUMBIA, S.C.

If only driverless cars were as dependable as we’d like them to be.

Once that would happen, the Dillon Wildcats could surely program one that could take them on an annual December trip to Williams-Brice Stadium

Even with its headlights closed.

So it’s been for coach Jackie Hayes’ program, which will play in its eighth consecutive state championship game Saturday. At 3 p.m. at Williams-Brice, Dillon will play Chapman for this year’s Class 3A crown.

If you don’t think THAT’S impressive enough, consider this: This will be the Wildcats’ 11th state championship game in 12 years.

This is something to behold, not to take for granted.

“Let the record speak for itself,” Hayes said. “No other time in history has this ever been done, and it’s hard to repeat. Think about it. We’ve been here 11 out of the past 12 years. To make it here eight years in a row just speaks a lot for our coaches and our players. And also, our administration, too. Their support has just been unbelievable.”

During these past years, Hayes has coached Dillon to seven state championships.

Unbelievable is indeed a word to describe this run. Remarkable is another.

Make no mistake about it, Dillon has a group of tremendously talented athletes.

But to make talented athletes play to their potential, it takes a tremendous effort by the coaches. And that’s exactly what Dillon has here.

“The thing about it is, if you coach a position at Dillon, you’ve got an opportunity to do what you need to do to coach your position,” Hayes said. “It’s just like you’re your own little head coach at your position, and I’ve used that as a good base the whole time I’ve been coaching, and it’s worked extremely well.”

But on top of that, Wildcats — players and coaches alike — realize that shadow called “tradition” that they’re playing under.

“It’s been a team effort,” Shrine Bowl linebacker Ty’Quan King said. “We’ve all worked hard and bought into what the coaches have taught us.”

That’s because they remember the standard that has been set.

Remember when Dillon won four state titles in a row? That’s a standard.

There’s no telling how many times THESE Wildcats have heard that.

But also remember when Dillon lost last year’s state title game to Chester?

I can promise you these players have probably heard THAT more than anything.

“It’s very exciting,” said senior quarterback Jay Lester, who helped lead the Wildcats past Chapman in the 2017 state final. But he was also the quarterback in last year’s championship loss to Chester. “Last year was a bad taste with that loss against Chester. And you know, I like that winning taste. And we want to get that win.”

Simply put, it’s state championship or bust for these Wildcats.

But that’s the case every year, and there’s no doubt that sparked the sense of urgency for Hayes’ team to win three consecutive seven-point road games.

Trust me, after that, nothing will faze these Wildcats.

I truly expect Saturday’s game against an incredibly talented Chapman team to be a thriller. And if the Wildcats win, it will be Hayes’ eighth state title.

And as young as the Wildcats are, it’s possible they could keep this going.

And going.

And going, just like this program has gone this decade.

Dillon demands that it not be any other way.

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Prep Sports Writer

A five-time APSE national award winner, Scott recently authored his first book,"70 Years of Thrills and Chills, Drama and Dents at Darlington Raceway." In college, Scott played on a tennis scholarship,

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