By Lonnie Turner
When the late Paul Chapman retired as head coach following the 1989 football season, the Dillon District School Board took a chance with another coach from Hartsville and hired Lee Segars.
Segars came in and did some wholesale changes in the Chapman way of doing things and finished a two-year stint with a dismal 1-21 record, with the only win coming against West Florence in his second season at the helm of the Wildcats.
Then came local boy Jackie Hayes, who played at DHS, went on to Catawba College and back to the Dillon area where he started as a JV coach and got the nod to take over the Wildcat program in 1991 when Segars went on to coach in Georgia on the high school level.
The rest is history with Coach Hayes finishing up with a 29-year career, winning 336 games while losing only 56 for an unbelievable winning percentage of 85.7%, which is 32nd in the nation among active coaches.
When Coach Hayes made the announcement in early December that he was ready to step down, local folks were hoping that his successor wouldn’t be as it was 29 years ago, but would be someone who understands the Dillon type of football and the school board didn’t have to look very far.
Kelvin Roller, who was born near the Marlboro-Dillon County county line and attended Marlboro County High School, where he coached before coming to Dillon in 2011 to run the offense for the Cats. He was also an outstanding softball coach as well.
When he was called to run the offense for the Cats, Dillon had already won back to back 2A State Championships against Fairfield-Central and finished the season 12-1 in 2011. With Roller calling the shots from 2012 through the 2015 season, the Wildcats would run off four consecutive State Titles on the way to a 53-3 record. From 2016 through 2019, the Wildcats would be crowned a 7th time as state champion and finish as Lower State Runners-Up in 2018 and 2019. Roller’s current Win-Loss record sits at 125-10 since becoming an assistant at DHS.
Not only did Roller get a wealth of experience from Coach Hayes, but he has been in a program for ten years that has proven over and again that it is one of the greatest in the state. To go with that experience, Roller has inherited one of the premier assistant coaching staffs in the state and we, in Dillon, feel as Coach Hayes did every season and Coach Roller is feeling already, “the goal in Dillon is to be eating turkey on Thanksgiving and practicing football, getting ready to play in a state football championship.”
By Lonnie Turner