Jason Allen is preparing his team for a test they’ve taken time and time again and haven’t gotten the result they want.
Aynor (6-0, 2-0 Region 6-3A) isn’t the only program looking to measure up to a perennial state power when playing Dillon. The Wildcats haven’t lost a region game since 2008 and have steamrolled whatever classification – 2A or 3A – they’ve been in during that time, winning five state championships in seven years and playing for a title each year.
“It’s always fun to play the best. You find out where you are in a hurry playing (Dillon),” Aynor’s head coach said. “They’ve been one of the best programs in the state for a long time and this year is no different.”
Allen’s counterpart, Jackie Hayes, has seven state championship rings on his nightstand and has this year’s version of the Wildcats seeking redemption for a missed opportunity to add an eighth ring last year.
This year, Dillon is scoring an average of 42 points per game and allows only 10; last week’s contest against Loris was the first time a team scored more than 14 on the Wildcats this season in a 51-20 romp.
Since that 2008 region loss to Cheraw, Dillon has gone on to beat programs like Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, Wilson, Marlboro County, Darlington, Loris, Aynor and Waccamaw, often in games that were well in hand by the time the second half started.
To keep his team ready, Allen is creating a simple game plan that is the bread and butter of Aynor football.
“The goal at Aynor High School is to shorten the game, no matter who the opponent is,” he said. “The best defense we have is our offense because our style of play runs the clock and our physicality breaks down opponents. We want to get Friday to the fourth quarter and see if we can wear down Dillon a little bit.”
Leading the charge is quarterback Andrew Brown, who paces the Blue Jackets in passing and rushing, combining for 1,215 yards and 18 touchdowns on the year. Along with Brown, Fred Pollard at running back and Riley Phipps at wideout have been critical pieces to a potent Aynor offense that has scored at least 36 points in each game this year.
When breaking down the Wildcats, Allen sees talent across the field that supersedes many of the teams Aynor has and will play this season.
“Their quarterback (Ja’Teil Lester) is probably the best player that we will see all year. He’s electric with the ball in his hands,” Allen said. “They have a really big offensive line and one of the best wide receiver corps in the state. Then, you flip over to the defense and it’s like they have a factory making these guys. They’re all similar size, really athletic, and fast. They stand out on film.”
Throughout the years, Dillon has stood as the ultimate test in Class 3A and has seen different opponents rise and fall as the one to dethrone the region champs. Loris has risen to the challenger role with limited success. Marion, Lake City and Cheraw have given Dillon a game here and there, and Aynor has an opportunity to be the next program to rise from the ranks.
No matter the classification or region alignment, it’s not easy to have a powerhouse program that thinks in terms of state championship rings over region titles on your schedule each year.
“We don’t look at our schedule and circle any games,” Allen said. “Every game is a big game, we don’t look at any opponent over another. We know that each year we have an extremely tough region slate, with Dillon as a big part of that challenge.”
Week 8 Schedule
Dillon at Aynor
Carolina Forest at St. James
South Florence at Conway
Green Sea Floyds at Lake View
Cheraw at Loris
Marlboro County at Myrtle Beach
North Myrtle Beach at Darlington
Socastee at West Florence
Waccamaw at Manning