For the second year in a row, Dillon defeated Central by a point to win the Class 2A state football championship.
Despite early mistakes - two fumbles and an illegal kick that resulted in a safety cut into their big first-half lead - coach Jackie Hayes' Wildcats held on for a 21-20 victory Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium.
"We just shot ourselves in the foot the whole first half," Hayes said. "We had chances to put it away early. We went from a 14-0 lead to winning by one."
Dillon led 14-8 at halftime, and Hayes kept his adjustments simple: "We just quit doing dumb stuff," he said.
Freshman running back Jabo Lee got the Wildcats back on track with his 61-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to give Dillon a 21-8 lead.
"While I was running, I saw my tight ends there with me, and they had told me they weren't going to stop blocking no matter what, so I wasn't going to stop running," said Lee, who finished with 98 yards.
"That long run is what really killed us," Central coach Joey Mangum said. "We were trying to tell them to hang in there, and they did. Then this guy runs almost 70 yards and we're back down again."
But the Eagles (12-3) engineered a seven-play, 35-yard scoring drive to pull within a touchdown at the end of the third. They crept to within one point on a 14-yard pass from quarterback Jowan Henderson to running back Radford Robinson with 6:49 remaining. Down 21-20 and without a reliable kicking game, the Eagles had to go for two. A pass fell incomplete.
"I know that's what the guys are going to focus on, the things that went wrong," Mangum said.
The Eagles, who had 18 turnovers on the season, committed three in the first half as they fell behind.
Dillon failed to convert its first interception into points, but Antuawn Blue returned the second 42 yards to the Central 4, and Desmond Hayes punched in a rushing score.
"I had to step it up on defense because I knew on offense they were going to have a lot of people on me," said Blue, who finished with 54 yards on four receptions.
Central fumbled on its next drive, and the Wildcats converted the turnover into points when TyQuan Hayes connected from 14 yards with Quincy Bethea.
Central 0 8 6 6 - 20
Dillon 7 7 7 0 - 21
D - Desmond Hayes 4 run (TJ Grimsley kick), 1:05.
D - Quincy Bethea 14 pass from Tyquan Hayes (Grimsley kick), 10:58.
C - Safety, 7:12.
C - Jiwan Funderburk 5 pass from Jowan Henderson (pass failed), :43
D - Jabo Lee 61 run (Grimsley kick), 10:28
C - Radford Robinson 3 run (pass failed), 1:54.
C - Robinson 14 pass from Henderson (pass failed), 6:49.
First downs 7 13
Rush-yards 31-82 39-106
Passing 99 129
Comp-Att-Int 7-10-0 12-22-2
Punts-avg. 2-39.5 3-44.7
Fumbles-lost 5-3 2-1
Penalties-yards 4-27 4-20
Rushing - Dillon, Jabo Lee 10-98, Desmond Hayes 3-9, Antuawn blue 1-7, Jacarius Manning 1-4, Tyquan Hayes 12-20. Central, Radford Robinson 16-57, Mardu Smith 6-47, De'Aja Blakeney 2-5, Jerel Blakeney 1-4, Rodney Kirkland 1-1.
Receiving - Dillin, Antuawn Blue 4-54, Quincy Bethea 2-22, Tommy Pittman 1-23. Central, Kegan Funderburk 2-28, Mardu Smith 4-38, Jiwan Funderburk 3-22, Radford Robinson 2-19, Rodney Kirkland 1-22.
Passing - Dillon, Tyquan Hayes 7-10-0, 1. Central, Jowan Henderson 12-22-2, 2.
Jabo Lee, Dillon
Rushed for 98 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown.
Kotedric Clyburn, Central
Made six solo tackles, including one for a loss and one sack, and forced two fumbles, recovering one.