Dillon's Dynasty

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By Travis Jenkins

Jackie Hayes obviously knows a thing or two about winning state championships…but knows about losing them too.

Hayes will lead the Dillon Wildcats against the Chester Cyclones on Friday in the AAA state championship game. He brings in a team that has was won 27 consecutive games dating back to the start of last of season, but that isn’t even the program’s most impressive active streak. Saturday will mark the seventh-straight year that the Wildcats have played for a state championship and the 10th time in the last 11 years. By any measure that is dynastic and one of the most monumental accomplishments in state prep history but Hayes said those outside the program and even some of his team’s own fans don’t realize how difficult it is to make it to one state title game, let alone 10.

“Nobody understands how hard it is to get to this game. Some people get a little spoiled in life and some of our fans might get spoiled or have unrealistic expectations,” he said.

There is a misconception among some about Dillon, Abbeville, Lamar and other programs that seem to compete for state titles on a regular basis. There is an assumption that certain teams always have more athletes than everyone else. At any school, but particularly Class A, AA and AAA schools with less than 1,000 students, talent can and does ebb and flow. What isn’t subject to chance and genetic crapshoots is attitude and effort, he said.

“I really believe it all boils down to work ethic, and your coaches and what they instill in your players,” Hayes said.

Success also breeds more success. Hayes said each new class wants to live up to the standard that has been established before them. No one wants to go out without a ring and no one wants to fail to live up to the Dillon standard.

“They talk about that a lot,” Hayes said. “They say ‘man, I don’t want to graduate from here and…didn’t win a state championship my senior year. It’s a domino effect.”

Despite his near unprecedented success, Hayes has lost in the state finals on three occasions and some members of this year’s team have swallowed that bitter pill of defeat. This year’s seniors were sophomores in 2016 when a heavily favored Wildcats team lost to Chapman. That setback in itself helped mold last year’s title winner and this year’s lowerstate championship squad.

“They don’t want a repeat of that. When we lost to Chapman in 2016, Chapman had an outstanding football team, but we went up there with a big head. We got behind, we turned the ball over six times. We just weren’t mentally ready to play. That’s a good teaching tool. Sometimes you have to lose to really understand what makes a system work,” he said.

Hayes said his team will not bring a big head to Williams-Brice stadium against Chester. He said Coach Victor Floyd and the Cyclones remind him a lot of his own team in their hard-nosed approach and love of the game. He’s won eight title games in his illustrious career, but he’s lost three and knows either outcome is possible playing a team as good as Chester.

“We’ve got a big challenge on our hands (Friday.)”