For the second time in two years, the Bluffton High School Bobcats are the victims of what appears to be a rivalry prank with Hilton Head Island High School.
The tunnel and bobcat statue at Bluffton High School's football field have been vandalized. Dave Adams, Bluffton High's athletic director, said he discovered the damage when he arrived at the school Monday morning.
He said the sponsorship logos on the outside of the tunnel were covered in graffiti; alumni memorabilia inside the tunnel was painted over; and the mascot statue atop the tunnel -- sculpted by a school parent -- was painted blue.
The graffiti included "a little profanity, and then, of course, there was a Seahawk reference," he said. The Seahawk mascot belongs to Hilton Head Island High School.
The vandalism was reported to the school resource officer, Adams said. The Bluffton Police Department planned to investigate the incident Monday afternoon and could not comment, Lt. Tony Charron said.
The graffiti caused several thousands of dollars in damage, booster club president Amy Waddell said. Most of the helmet decals inside the tunnel that players put up as a lasting memory will have to be replaced, she said.
"It took thousands of dollars from businesses and families to get the tunnel there as a tradition for the kids," Waddell said. "It's a disappointment for sure because when most people hear about it, they are going to be hurt."
Bluffton High hopes the school district can remove the paint from the tunnel before students return from winter break Monday, Adams said.
Beaufort County School District maintenance workers will look at the damage this week to see whether it can be repaired, district spokesman Jim Foster said.
The principals of the two schools -- Amanda O'Nan at Hilton Head High and Mark Dievendorf at Bluffton High -- have been in touch, Foster said.
If the district determines that students caused the damage, action will be taken based on the district's disciplinary code, he said. The district would also probably seek restitution to pay for repairing the damage.
"Interscholastic rivalries can be very healthy, but it crosses a line when a rivalry takes the form of vandalism that requires taxpayer dollars to repair," Foster said.
Pranks between the two schools have happened before.
In May 2012, the 250-pound bobcat statue was stolen from its perch atop the tunnel and found a week later on the 50-yard line of Hilton Head High's football field. Before it was found, the missing statue appeared as a hostage in a homemade video that circulated among the students at both schools.
The people responsible for that prank never were identified, Foster said.
"The principals want to encourage a healthy rivalry but discourage this kind of thing, because it is possible to have a healthy rivalry without damage to public property," he added.
Follow reporter Sarah Bowman at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.