When it all ended, on a wet evening in Bluffton, there were plenty tears and enough heartbreak to flood the South Carolina Lowcountry.
In the 97 days between, the Bluffton High School football team rehabilitated its image as gridiron pushovers, while reinventing the imagination and morale of the Bluffton community.
It’s easy to rattle off the “firsts” accomplished by the Bobcats this season:
There was the first defeat of rival Hilton Head — they beat them twice to open and close the regular season. There was the first winning season in seven tries — they won 12 of 14 games. And their first postseason victory — that is to say their first three playoff wins.
But the exploits of the Bobcats transcend that of Xs and Os and the obliteration of the program’s history books.
Each week brought new highs and impossibilities beyond the mind’s comprehension.
Every Friday as the Bobcats’ win-loss record swelled to epic proportions, so, too, did the post-game huddle on the field. It became the place to be, a unified meeting of players, coaches, parents and fans.
Each week there were tears and laughs, hoots and hollers and always enough hugs for even the toughest of players in these huddles.
Some called it a ‘team effort.’ In reality, it was a community, if not a family, endeavor.
Do not shed tears of sorrow for the Bobcats’ dream deferred. This raisin that was the Bluffton football season didn’t not shrivel in the sun or prune on the wet nights in the face of unreasonable odds.
The season didn’t end with the storybook ending and a state title that Bluffton would’ve preferred.
But it did follow an incredible path of heart, character and triumph that the finest of fiction writers couldn’t have penned to paper.
And that makes the Bobcats a champion in my book.