The Loris football team played better Friday night than it ever has against rival Dillon during coach Jamie Sinder’s reign.
However, it still wasn’t enough for a victory.
The Wildcats jumped on the Lions early and often, and junior halfback Jamison Chapman had two rushing touchdowns in the second half to lead Dillon to a 37-20 victory over Loris in the Class AA, Division I Lower State finals.
“Can not say enough about how hard our kids played,” Snider said. “They got down, they never quit and they played for four quarters. I’m unbelievably proud of this group. We didn’t come away with the victory but we scored more points tonight than we’ve ever scored against Dillon. This is the fifth time we’ve played them in three years; I’m proud of this group and what they were able to accomplish.”
While being held scoreless in the first half, Loris put up a fight in the second.
Junior Long caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Ta’Jay Williams with under six minutes to play to cut the Lions’ deficit to 30-14. On the ensuing kickoff, the Lions recovered an onside kick, but it was negated when the referees determined the ball didn’t travel at least 10 yards.
“The ball hit the ground and bounced up in the air. They said it never hit the ground; two officials called it that way,” Snider said of the play. “[It was a] bad call, we had momentum going our way and it just didn’t work out.”
Chapman then scored his second rushing touchdown of the night with 3:50 remaining as Dillon went up 37-14 to put the game away.
Clay Faircloth scored a 1-yard rushing touchdown for Loris with a little over two minutes left to play to cut the Lions’ deficit to 17 – but it was a little too late.
Wildcats quarterback Avery McCall finished with two rushing touchdowns along with Chapman.
“Both of them have had big years; I thought Chapman had a tremendous game,” Dillon coach Jackie Hayes said. “He had a couple of runs in the second half that kind of put it away for us. But hats off to Loris; they had a tremendous year. They only had two losses all year and they both came to us.”
Dillon – which entered the game defeating 2014 opponents by an average of 35 points – has won 21 straight games dating back to last year.
Hayes credited the Lions for playing a tough game as they switched up the schemes they’ve been running all season long.
“I knew it was going to be tough the whole time. They changed up completely what they’ve done all year long,” said Hayes, whose team beat Loris 49-7 during the regular season. “They had a great game plan and I told my coaches on Wednesday, ‘Look, I have feeling they’re not going to do what they normally do.’ They went to a 3-3 stack on defense, double covered the outside receivers to cut the passing game down a little bit and we had to go to the run and it slowed things down.
“We turned the ball over and we just didn't play real good football tonight. Hats off to Loris; they did an outstanding job. Coach Snider has done a great job since taking over there. But our guys have been in so many big games and they just refuse to lose.”
Loris’ scoreless first half was marred by a failed fake punt attempt, which set up McCall’s second touchdown of the night as the Wildcats entered halftime leading 14-0.
“It hurt,” Snider said of the failed fake punt. “I think the score at halftime would have been at worst 7-0. They still had to drive the ball down the field, but we served it up to them on a platter on that one.”
The closest any team has come to beating Dillon this season was Class AAA Lower State finalist Marlboro County, which lost 36-21.
And Snider knew he would have his hands full in this one.
“We know them better than anybody and they know us better than anybody,” Snider said. “Our guys played hard and got after it. It was a great opportunity and our kids wanted another shot and got it; we just came up short but it was still a very good season.”
Dillon will take on Newberry next Friday at River Bluff High School in Columbia in the championship.
“I don’t know much about them. They've been to the semifinals three out of the last four years and they finally got it done,” Hayes said of Newberry. “I’m just proud of our kids and their effort. We need to keep it going.”