Minutes after he’d broken from his team’s final huddle at football practice, head coach Brian Lane was in the Clover High School cafeteria, fiddling with a remote that operated the room’s projector.
It was a Monday evening, and the coach was leading a weekly meeting with 20-or-so parents and members of the community. At the meeting, he flipped through game video of Clover’s Friday night 35-10 win over Rock Hill — explaining his opponent’s coverages as the video clips cycled through.
His son, Jaylin, was seated in the back of the cafeteria, mostly looking at his phone and waiting for his father to finish talking. He looked up only when he heard his name.
“It’s a nice throw and catch,” Coach Lane said, narrating one of his son’s three touchdown receptions that was being replayed on the screen. In the play shown, Jaylin catches the ball after a deep post, and then he cuts and makes the last Rock Hill defender miss before stomping into the end zone.
As the clip played again on the projector, Coach Lane shook his head and smiled: “Just like his Daddy used to.”
In two weeks, when Clover finishes its regular season, exchanges like this — ones that are unique to the coach/father Lane and the player/son Lane — will no longer be guaranteed.
And come the end of this season, they’ll end altogether — when Jaylin, the senior wide receiver and Shrine Bowl selection, is no longer coached by his father, Brian, the 13-year high school head coach who eclipsed 100 wins earlier this year, and who’s leadership, in part, has yielded the program’s first region championship since 2006.
“It’s bittersweet because you know, one day, it’s going to end,” Coach Lane said of coaching his son.
“And then, I’ll have to try to find someone to replace him. So it’s just bittersweet.”
‘We’ve got to get our catches in!’
This season, in many ways, has been the culmination of Jaylin’s childhood spent around football.
His father had been a quarterback at Byrnes in the 1990s — one of three starting quarterbacks for that high school in his own family. Brian also played point guard for the basketball team and was a center fielder for the baseball team. On the baseball diamond, Brian said his friends and coaches gave him the nickname, “Showtime.”
(Jaylin laughed when he recounted his dad’s nickname: “I don’t really believe it.”)
Brian Lane then became Coach Lane. He bounced around South Carolina, coaching position to available football coaching position. He was the first head coach at South Florence High School before spending six seasons at Woodruff High, where he won the Upper State Championship in 2011. He then spent the next three years at the helm of his alma mater, Byrnes, before coming to Clover in 2016.
And through those years, Coach Lane’s sons, Jaylin and B.J. (the oldest son), were always around the game.
“Since he was 5 years old, (Jaylin) has been a ball boy,” Coach Lane said. “Both of my boys (were). When they were old enough to get out there and run around, they were out there.”
There are plenty of stories about Jaylin’s early fascination with football.
For instance, every night, Jaylin, then 5 years old, and B.J., then 9, would engage in a ritual as religious as their nightly prayer. Coach Lane would throw a football, and flick the lights off and on in their room as the ball was mid-flight. They’d have to catch five balls before they could go to sleep.
“They got so good at it that I had to start double-clicking,” Coach Lane said. “I had to go off-on, off-on to give them a challenge … And if I ever forgot, if I ever said, ‘Good night, men,’ they’d say, ‘No Daddy, we’ve got to get our catches in!’”
There was the time when Brian asked Jaylin — who was then a fourth-grader running around and playing with his brother as his dad coached a high school football practice — to show the wide receivers how to run a post-and-corner route properly. (Coach Lane said his son ran it perfectly and caught the pass.)
There was the time Jaylin was in his first season playing flag football: Jaylin had scored the first five times he touched the ball. In the second game, Coach Lane remembers, he scored twice on two catches. “And the third time he touched it, he didn’t score, and I remember him getting upset, wanting to cry… and I was like, ‘No, you’re not going to do this.’ I was being one of them Dads...
“This is going to sound a little strange, but for me, I want them to feel some adversity. I don’t want them to think every time they touch it, they’re going to score. I want (Jaylin and B.J.) to struggle because if you don’t struggle on things, you don’t appreciate them.”
‘Coaching him at the dinner table’
There was a time — he admits, although with hesitation — that Jaylin wanted to be like “Pops.” In middle school, he wanted to wear the same number his father did (No. 11).
He even took up the same sports as his father.
But from the beginning, Jaylin said he never wanted to play quarterback — “I didn’t really like throwing it” — and that was music to his father’s ears.
Coach Lane, after all, played quarterback. He coached the position, too, and he didn’t want his job to spill into his family life.
“I knew how the kitchen table was going to be every night,” Coach Lane said. “I didn’t want my dinner table to be a coaching session. You know, that’s the position I coach, and you want your feet to be where you’re at. I didn’t want to be coaching him at the dinner table.”
In fact, the Lanes made a concerted effort to avoid entangling football and family in several ways.
Coach Lane has always told his sons that he will be harder on them than any of their teammates. He’s also told them that they’ll have to earn everything they want to reap: “I told both of my kids this: ‘If you’re ever out there playing, what are they going to say? The only reason you’re playing is because your dad is the coach.’
“And I said, ‘Well, sons, if you’re not good enough, you’re not going to be out there.’”
Some signs of the father-son dynamic are more subtle than that, though: At home, Jaylin calls his father “Dad” or “Pops” or whatever other endearing, normal nickname. But on the field, he calls him “Coach.”
“I call him Coach Lane,” Jaylin said, laughing. “Yeah, if I called him ‘Dad’ everybody would get on me, and it would be bad.”
But has Jaylin ever called Coach Lane ‘Dad’ on the field? They have a story for that, too.
It was an otherwise compulsory 7-on-7 scrimmage. One play, Jaylin had his defender beat, but a short throw led to an incomplete pass, which emboldened Jaylin’s defender to start talking some playful trash.
“And then I said, ‘Hey, Daddy, throw me the ball!’” Jaylin said. “And that drive I caught, like, three passes in a row.”
Said Coach Lane, who was chuckling as he recalled the story: “I was like, ‘OK. Calling me ‘Daddy’ out here; he must be upset.”
‘What’s driving me’
This team, this season, has made history: Clover has won its region for the first time since 2006, as aforementioned, and it’s undefeated through eight games — a mark that hasn’t been achieved by the program in at least a decade and a half, according to MaxPreps.
On top of that, the Blue Eagles have clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Individually, Jaylin, through eight games, has accumulated 46 receptions for 929 yards and 19 touchdowns, per statistics provided by the school. He’s also added a passing touchdown and a punt return for a score.
But Jaylin, like he and his father are often quick to do, doesn’t like to dwell on individual achievement. His focus is team success.
He credits the offensive line and the team’s quarterback, three-time offensive player of the week Gabe Carroll. He points out the effectiveness of Clover’s defense — led by North-South All-Stars Jaquarrious Guinn and Hayden Johnson, and others.
“Last year, we knew we were good, but I just feel like in the tight moments, we feel like we just didn’t think we could do it,” Jaylin said. “I think this year, there’s a whole new level of confidence… Over the offseason, Gabe and I were always throwing, doing something, so I feel like our chemistry just leveled-up.”
All this considered, Jaylin said there is still one thing he wants to help his father accomplish.
“He’s never won state as a head coach, and, really, that’s what’s driving me,” Jaylin said.
“It would be so cool to get that with him.”