It wasn't until time on the Charlie W. Johnson Stadium scoreboard ticked below a minute in the game that Dillon High's Bryce King exhaled and began to clap his hands in celebration.
When the time read 0:00, King was on his knees. His eyes were welled with tears.
"After it was less than a minute, I knew that we had won," said King, an offense lineman and South Carolina commitment. "I've worked since ninth grade to get back here. It paid off."
King and fellow senior lineman and Gamecocks pledge D.J. Park helped lead Dillon (13-1) to its third title in five years and first since King was a freshman. The Wildcats beat Fairfield Central 21-6 Friday night in the Class 2A Division 1 state championship at the Benedict College stadium in Columbia.
Though almost two hours from home, King and Park were about two miles from the South Carolina campus they will call home starting next year. Their future position coach, offensive line Shawn Elliott, watched the game from the stands.
On Friday night, the focus was on the task at hand: redemption for a Dillon team that lose by three in the state finals in 2010, then ended its 2011 season with an 18-15 loss in the semifinals.
"I thought last year was going to be the year," said Park, who sported a Gamecocks hat shortly after the game ended. "I knew we had to come back. We had too many seniors who've been here before. There's nothing better than going out a champion."
The two future Gamecocks lined up at the tackle spots Friday - Park at left, King at right - as Dillon had 429 yards total offense. Their jobs centered around blocking for freshman quarterback Avery McCall, who threw three touchdowns, and junior tailback Anthony Blue, who rushed for 202 yards.
Both Park and King have been a part of three state title games and have been great players and leaders for Dillon, coach Jackie Hayes said.
"They're special players and they're special people, and they have special families that set them apart," Hayes said. "Bryce King is a four-year starter and has meant a lot to our program. D.J. Park doesn't say much and tries to lead by example."
At 6-foot-6, 335 pounds, Park is a consensus four-star prospect who is projected as a tackle on the next level. He plans to enroll at USC in January.
King, who is 6-foot-4, 300 pounds, is expected to play center in college. King has three stars from three of the four recruiting rankings and four stars from 247Sports.
The two won't have to wait until next year to play football together again.
Both will represent the Palmetto State in the Shrine Bowl all-star game on Dec. 15. After Christmas they'll head to the 2013 Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl in California, which is played Jan. 4.
"It's an honor," Park said, "but it's not just two more times. It's the next four years."
Future Gamecocks Pharoh Cooper and Kendal Vickers also won their respective N.C. state championship for Havelock High.