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Justin Jarrett

Eagles’ return trip to state a rarity for Lowco squads 

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If you’re new around here, the juggernaut Bryce Lybrand has built at Beaufort High might have you thinking it’s old hat for football teams from the Lowco to make the trek to Columbia (or Clemson, in different times) the week after Thanksgiving and try to bring home a state title. 

Not so much. 

The road to the state’s public school state championship game has been a treacherous one for teams hailing from the Lowco — which we currently define as our immediate coverage area of Beaufort, Jasper, Colleton, and Hampton counties. 

Beaufort’s trip to the Class 4A title game last season was the first SCHSL championship game appearance for the Lowco in a decade — like the Eagles, Ken Cribb’s Bluffton squad fell to South Pointe in the Class 3A championship in 2011 — and only the second for Beaufort since integration. Mark Clifford took the Eagles to the Class 4A-II title game in 2007, falling to Clover, and that was Beaufort County’s first representation in the championship game in 27 years. 

Lybrand’s Eagles are the first team from these parts to make it to state in back-to-back seasons since the great Dan Utley coached H.E. McCracken High School to runner-up finishes in Class 1A in 1976 and 1977 (Utley also took Hilton Head Island High to the Class 3A title game in 1990 before falling to Camden). 

To find a SCHSL state champion from the Lowco, you have to go back to 1997, when Leroy Riley coached the now-defunct Walterboro High School to the Class 4A-II title with a 28-27 win over Hartsville. And that is the only SCHSL state championship trophy that has come back to the Lowco since integration. 

To find a champ from Beaufort County, you have to go all the way back to the 1945 Beaufort Tidal Wave coached by L.J. Russell, who blanked Clover 26-0 in the title game to capture the school’s second Class B title along with coach Dana McLendon’s crown in 1935. 

So regardless of the result Thursday night, the Eagles and the entire Lowco community can take pride in what this team has accomplished. And if they win, we will have witnessed something this region has coveted for quite some time. 

Justin Jarrett is the sports editor of The Island News and the founder of LowcoSports.com. He was the sports editor of the Island Packet and the Beaufort Gazette for 6½ years. He has a passion for sports and community journalism and a questionable sense of humor. 

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