For the third year in a row and the fifth time in six seasons, the Dillon Wildcats are state champions.
Coach Jackie Hayes’ squad completed an undefeated season with 49-27 win against Newberry in the Class 2A, Division I championship on Friday at River Bluff. It was the first undefeated season in program history, and an emotional one for Hayes.
“It’s all about the program. Tremendous effort from our guys, and I can’t be happier for them. People don’t know how hard it is to do what we did,” Hayes said.
“Any time you can go 14-0 and win it all, it’s got to be special, but I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t think it was going to happen this year, but those guys did.”
Behind a big offensive line, quarterback Avery McCall finished with 230 passing yards (15-of-27) and senior Eri’Reon Hayes had 109 receiving yards in leading the Wildcats.
For Newberry (11-3), there was one clear moment that could have changed the tone of the game.
Newberry seemed poised for a comeback in the third quarter. But, a Bulldogs’ fumble at the Dillon 1-yard line was scooped up by Dillon defensive back Malik Manning and returned 99 yards for a touchdown. A play that could have made it a one-possession game ended with the Wildcats going up 28-7.
“(That) was really big, really huge, and we couldn’t bounce back. They got us out of our game plan, and the bottom line is we did not stop them,” Newberry coach Phil Strickland said. “This is a great football team that beat us, but if you don’t stop somebody, you’re not going to win.”
Newberry was alive in the third quarter, as Josh Davis scored on a 73-yard catch-and-run that cut the Dillon lead to two touchdowns. After Dillon scored on a Daniel Hamilton touchdown catch, Newberry answered with a 63-yard scoring drive capped by a 6-yard run from junior quarterback Yafari Werts.
With seven minutes left in the game, Dillon regained a three-possession lead with sophomore Johnny Allen’s third touchdown of the game.
Werts’ 57-yard run set up an Omar Sims touchdown for the Bulldogs’ final score. Werts led the Bulldogs with 241 yards of offense.
The Wildcats are set up for another title run in 2015, as 19 starters return, including McCall.
“We’re losing some key guys, like Eri’Reon, but we’ll be OK, we’ll find another receiver like Eri’Reon and keep going,” Allen said.
1st: (N) KJ Fields 88 kickoff return (Bryan Guevara kick)
1st: (D) Johnny Allen 6 run (Drew Covington kick)
1st: (D) Allen 42 run (Covington kick)
2nd: (D) Eri’Reon Hayes 39 pass from Avery McCall (Covington kick)
3rd: (D) Malik Manning 99 fumble return (Covington kick)
3rd: (N) Josh Davis 73 pass from Werts (Guevara kick)
3rd: (N) Werts 6 run (Guevara kick)
4th: (D) Allen 2 run (Covington kick)
4th: (N) Omar Sims 4 run (kick failed)
4th: (D) Jamison Chapman 26 run (Covington kick)
Rushing—N: Yafari Werts 16-87, Omar Sims15-86, Chris Wadsworth 11-47; D: Johnny Allen 11-90; Avery McCall 11-57.
Passing—N: Yafari Werts 8-15-154; D: Avery McCall 15-27-230-2
Receiving: N—Josh Davis 3-87, Deuntrey Gallman 2-52; D: Eri’Reon Hayes 5-109.