Dave Adams should wear his special trophy Saturday to Bluffton High School's first state championship football game.
What he calls a "trophy" is really a smelly, faded black Bluffton Bobcats hat.
It is of such high pedigree that it resides in the restroom off the office where he carries out the duties of Bluffton High athletics director.
Eight seasons ago, when Adams was the brand-new school's first head football coach, he wore that hat to every practice and every game. That hat was 0-10, but it got to see a lot of homecoming queens. Everybody wanted to schedule the Bobcats before they became the 14-0 machine they are today.
Adams decided to wear the hat until the Bobcats won, which fortunately came in the first game of year two.
It's not only the rank hat that gives Adams a feel for what Saturday's game means to the school, the students and the town. He's been in the bloody-knuckle scrap for championship trophies since he arrived in Bluffton right out of Winthrop University in 1978.
In eight years of coaching private schools, he won one state championship at the old May River Academy in Bluffton. Other teams were runners-up three times.
In his 18 years on the coaching staff at Hilton Head Island High School, the Seahawks made it to the state championship game only once, despite having some fine teams in that era. They lost to Camden High.
"People forget how tough it is," Adams said. "In these playoffs, we'll play five extra games. That's another half a season. You've put so much into it, it's a total emotional and physical drain.
"It's tough to take that second-place medal right there on that night. But after a few days, you begin to appreciate that only two teams were left standing, and you are the elite."
As for the winners, Adams said, "Adrenaline will run high for a few days. You think of the wet, the mud, the blood, the gnats -- what all you put up with for that moment. It's such an emotional high, knowing you will be able to say for the rest of your life that you were the 2011 Class 3A state champions."
Coach Ken Cribb's Bobcats knocked on the door last year, losing in the Lower State championship game. This year, he takes the highest-scoring team in state history into the title game at Clemson University's Death Valley.
That's a long way from home, but even longer from Adams' halftime speeches when his black hat was going 0-10: keep your head up, fight to the end, play every play, don't worry about the scoreboard.
"Now you look back on that, and you wouldn't take anything for it," Adams said. "Somebody had to start this thing. Nobody on that team quit. Every coach came back for year two. The fans and town treated us great."
Winning breeds winning, Adams said, and when Bluffton High beat Hilton Head Island High for the first time last year, the Bobcat bandwagon lurched into motion. Now it's in high gear.
But no matter what happens today, Adams will still see his faded old black hat every day.
He considers it a championship trophy because its sweat lines sketch out the big play: where you have to start to get where you dream to be.
Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.