Good, clean hate produces shining moment for two communities

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comOctober 1, 2013 

Surely there have been better ballgames than the thriller Hilton Head Island High School won over Bluffton on Friday night.

Maybe the Robert Smalls Generals and the St. Helena Eagles produced football games for the ages too numerous to count.

But few of the 5,000 who sat on the edge of metal bleachers as two schools that used to be one fought to a 33-32 final have seen anything like it around here.

The bigger story is that two transient communities acted like communities. And it's a shame it can't be measured in a box score.

It's hard to put a numeric value on ROTC cadets marching out with flags as Madi Ogburn is handed a microphone in the middle of a gaping stadium. She sings "The Star-Spangled Banner" a capella without missing a note. She's an international baccalaureate student on the Principal's Honor Roll at Hilton Head High, where she also is the reigning Miss Hilton Head High. She sings with the "Out of the Blue" school chorus that has performed at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. She's rehearsing for a May River Theatre production and sings at church on Sunday mornings. She has a business -- Madi Made It Handmade Wonders -- on the Etsy website. For a school project, she and some friends produced a YouTube re-enactment of "Macbeth."

Bluffton brought its full marching band, even though it had to get up before dawn the next day for a big competition in Walterboro. The Hilton Head High band won its division at that competition, something it hasn't done since 2007.

Both sides had loud student sections. I've seen entire seasons come and go without that many students in attendance, much less paying attention. The new Hilton Head student pep club, led by senior Craig Ryan in a blue wetsuit, was the idea of teacher Beth MacMurray.

ROTC cadets in face paint run into the end zone after each Seahawks touchdown and do pushups, while another kid waves a school flag.

Members of the Hilton Head High track teams worked in the concession stand.

Little girls stood among the Bluffton Bobcats cheerleaders.

In the stands, 88-year-old Alan Bikson of Hilton Head squinted to focus on a trumpet player marching at halftime. It was a student he mentors. Bikson played high school and college football in Minnesota more than six decades ago. Now he's among 90 volunteers mentoring 100 students in grades one through 12 on Hilton Head.

It's something Bikson has been doing all his adult life. He's known for tough love.

"Unfortunately, you lose more than you help," he said. "You hope it helps. I guess sometimes it does."

After the game, the impromptu celebration of students and players gave way to the traditional line for handshakes. And Bluffton's entire entourage knelt as usual in a large circle on the field.

Hilton Head assistant coach L.J. Bush held up the trophy for a game they call the Bridge Bowl. He's a Bluffton native. He had to cross the bridge to play for Hilton Head High, and he remains a Seahawk.

"This is all for the kids," Bush said. "It's all about the kids."

In this one shining moment for both schools, he was right.

Follow columnist David Lauderdale at

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