COLUMBIA, Miss. (WDAM) - It was on their minds all spring, summer and the start of fall.
After winning region 8-3A and 13 straight games en route to the 2019 South State Title, Columbia came up one win shy of the state championship last season.
The Wildcats have a chance to redeem themselves against Magee on Black Friday.
“Last year we didn’t really complete our goal,” said Columbia senior defensive back Dashod Ball. “Really our goal was to make it to South State and win and we didn’t really win so this year we just gotta complete it this year.”
“That taste in our mouth from last year is kind of the main thing for motivation and also just making sure we keep our focus on what’s important,” said Columbia head coach Chip Bilderback. “We didn’t come this far just to come this far you know. We want to go a step further this year.”
Standing in the Wildcats way is the 2020 region 8-3A winners Magee (10-0). Led by two-time state champion head coach Teddy Dyess and class 3A’s “Mr. Football” Chandler Pittman, the Trojans are as tough as they come.
Columbia’s regular-season meeting with Magee was cancelled due to COVID, but coach Bilderback and company played the Trojans twice in 2019 – the Wildcats won both contests.
“It’s gonna be a battle,” Bilderback said. “I know we’re going to have to play well. But I think they’re gonna have to play well to win, too. I think that’s what you expect for the South State championship. It comes down to guts and trying to finish and making a play or too, and we did that last Friday. We just want to be able to bottle that up and do it again.” A program that won a combined 12 games in the four years prior to Bilderback’s arrival, Columbia has reached no less than ten wins in the last three seasons. And what’s more, they’re getting used to playing the day after Thanksgiving. “It says a lot about the kids,” Bilderback said. “It says they’ve bought in, they work extremely hard and we’re a blue-collar program. We’re not trying to be fancy, we want to come in here and we want to work hard. We want to get after your butt and you know we play a brand of football that some people may or may not like. We’re going to run the football and we’re going to stop the run. But that’s something that we all aspire to do is Thanksgiving morning be able to practice football. Not many teams can say that and we’re one of the few that have. To me, that’s something special and kinda the tradition we’re trying to build here.”