On a warm mid-August night, the rivalry was reborn for another year. The setting -- a seemingly innocent preseason scrimmage between Hilton Head High and Bluffton High School.
In just one quarter -- an emotionally-charged yet scoreless 15 minutes -- the rivals exchanged hard hits and harsher words. By night's end, there were a pair of ejections and two rosters full of players fueled for a regular season game still 10 weeks away.
"It's a pride thing," Seahawks coach Tim Singleton said. "When you step onto the field with your rival, you come out with a little more fire and little more intensity."
Now, it counts.
Hilton Head High will host Bluffton on Friday night at Hilton Head Island Community Stadium in a regular season finale with plenty of playoff implications for both teams.
The Seahawks (5-4, 3-1 Region 8-AAA) already have clinched a berth to the postseason, but a win would guarantee them a home game in the first round of the Class 3-A playoffs. A loss, on the other hand, could force them to travel.
The Bobcats (3-6, 2-2) are on the inside of the playoff bubble, but they still need a win or a Battery Creek loss at Lake Marion to assure themselves a spot in the postseason. Otherwise, they'll be hoping tiebreakers go their way. If Bluffton can pull off a win tonight at Hilton Head High, however, it will have a chance at the first-round home game and the No. 2 seed in the region.
"After the beginning of region, nobody really thought we'd be a factor, and now both of us got a chance to finish second," Bluffton coach Jeremy West said, referring to each team's loss to open region play. "Both of us got something to prove with which one has come the farthest. That's just another reason to come out and win."
It's one of many.
The Bobcats haven't won against their rivals in three tries, giving Hilton Head High full ownership of the coveted Bridge Bowl trophy. The Seahawks won last year's meeting 28-10 at Bobcat Stadium.
"Until we beat them, it's a friendly rivalry," West said. "We haven't done anything to make it unfriendly. Until we do something about that, it's going to stay like a social event. We need to do something on our end to bring the trophy back to Bluffton."
"It's going to happen one day. They're going to win a game real soon," Singleton said. "But we plan not to make it this year."
WHAT THEY SAY
Why is your team better prepared?
Jeremy West, Bluffton
"We've played some tough competition. We're coming off a butt-whooping (last) Friday night. We're ready to prove to everybody that the two games before that weren't a fluke. We got a lot on the line to play for."
Tim Singleton, HHH
"We've been preparing for this game since last winter. ... Every day is preparation for a game, but the Bluffton game brings a special momentum because it's a community rivalry. At the end of the day, we don't want them to win."
Why will your backfield rush for more yards?
Zack Frazier, Bluffton
"We're going to be real hyped up and real motivated. Our adrenaline is going to be going. We'll be ready to get it going Friday."
Lawrence Jenkins, HHH
"Our line is going to make all the blocks and stick to the assignments and create more holes for me to run though."
Why will your playmakers account for more big plays?
Timmy Smith, Bluffton
"We've been waiting for this game for a long time. My senior year, I'm just ready and hyped. It's time now to execute our offense."
Clifford Morrow, HHH
"It means that much more to us. We don't want this to be our last game played on this field either."
Why will you win the battle up front?
Stephen Szczepanik, Bluffton
"We're strong and disciplined. We come off the ball real well. We got a lot of really good guys up there."
Hunter Anderson, HHH
"We've been preparingfor this game for 10 weeks. We're determined to be stronger and more physical."
Why will your defense have a more successful night?
Alfonza Powell, Bluffton
"We think we got the best defense in the region. We do our assignments, and we do everything right. It pays off for us most of the time."
Jack Duane, HHH
"Them boys think they have the best defense over there, so we have to show them why they don't. We have the pride to do it."
Why are you guys more emotionally ready for this game?
Desmond Jenkins, Bluffton
"It's a rivalry game. We grew up playing these guys in little league. There's a lot of trash talking back and forth. Especially battling for the bridge, you need to be mentally ready. And we will be."
Victor Frazier, HHH
"We want it more. When you're a senior, you've got to get it done. We don't want to lose the Bridge Bowl our senior year."
BLUFFTON BY THE NUMBERS
0 -- All-time wins in the Bridge Bowl series
199 -- Rush yards per game
41 -- Pass yards per game
24 -- Points allowed per game
HILTON HEAD HIGH BY THE NUMBERS
3 -- All-time wins in the Bridge Bowl series
154 -- Rush yards per game
131 -- Pass yards per game
20.3 -- Points allowed per game