COLUMBIA -- State champions.
Those are two words no boys team in the history of Clover High School could lay claim to in four tries until Friday.
The last time the Blue Eagles played for the football title was 62 years ago. The year was 1945 and they lost 26-0 to Beaufort. Friday in the Class AAAA Division II state championship at Williams-Brice Stadium, Clover (13-2) took advantage of its chance for revenge.
This time Clover came out on the winning end, 23-14.
"Our kids played their hearts out,'' Clover coach Jet Turner said. "Our offense did a great job controlling the ball in the second half and I couldn't be prouder.
"We've been able to come from behind all year. Being behind really doesn't bother our boys. They just keep doing what they do.''
Good thing the Blue Eagles refused to panic when they fell behind. They led twice in the first half, only to see the Eagles come storming back and take the lead.
When the teams broke for the half, Beaufort (12-3) led 14-10 and looked to have momentum on its side. But Clover has a way of evening the odds and turning things in its favor. Friday's second half was no exception.
"I'm not going to lie now that we've won it,'' said Clover quarterback Matt Endicott, who underhand-threw the football as high in the air as he could after the last play. "We're a good football team. We said we would win it and we did.
"Beaufort has a good football team, big and physical. We came in and executed better and that tells a lot about our football team."
All five of Beaufort's second-half possessions ended in interceptions, three picked off by Clover's Brooks McCarter. David Stone and Chris Lindsay had the others.
After stopping Beaufort with an interception on Clover's 16 to start the second half, the Blue Eagles began a march that put them ahead for good.
The Blue Eagles went 98 yards in only 4:16 and surged ahead 16-14 on Ricky Moore's 1-yard touchdown run. Moore, a junior fullback, had 14 carries for only 44 yards, but showed how tough he is in the red zone with three touchdowns.
"I didn't expect to get that many carries,'' Moore said. "This was a big game and I'm glad they handed it to me when we needed a big yard or two. I came up big when I had to, but our defense was outstanding.''
Lindsay picked off a pass late in the third quarter that led to the final touchdown. He intercepted at the Blue Eagles' 15-yard-line and returned it 55 yards.
In a sight with which Clover fans have grown familiar, the Blue Eagles kept the ball on the ground. After switching ends of the field for the final quarter, Clover scored in six plays. The TD was Moore's third 1-yard run of the game.
"We got beat by a better team,'' Beaufort coach Mark Clifford said. "Once we got behind by two touchdowns, it was hard on us because like us, Clover likes to line up and run the football.''
Clover lost the coin toss and opened the game with a 13-play, 42-yard drive that ate 6:45 off the first-half clock. It ended when Matthew Patterson came in on fourth down and drilled a 48-yard field goal.
The drive lasted so long that Beaufort had only one possession. It ended at Clover's 38 on fourth down. Needing 2 yards to keep possession, the handoff went to Beaufort's top running back, Adrene Byas. He was stopped for a 1-yard gain by the middle of Clover's defense with 1:31 showing on the first-quarter clock.
After passing just once in the opening quarter, the Eagles began airing it out in the second. Beaufort quarterback Blake Gruel completed 6-of-8 passes for 99 yards, just enough to keep the Blue Eagles guessing. When Clover bit on the pass, Gruel handed off to either Byas or Antonio Coaxum.
Between them, the Eagles and Blue Eagles scored three touchdowns in the final 4:50 of the half.
First on the board was Beaufort, which used a 16-play drive that covered 69 yards and lasted 7:10. Byas did the honors, running in almost untouched from 2 yards out for a 7-3 lead.
Clover's ensuing drive stayed alive on fourth-and-three when Chris Douglas broke free for a 5-yard run to Beaufort's 39.
"The dream is accomplished,'' said Douglas, who leaves for North-South Game practice Sunday. "All we kept hearing was Beaufort is so good.
"They have a good team, but so do we. All those people out there who still don't believe in us, should now. We are here to stay.''
Later in the drive, Endicott completed his first and second passes of the game, the second a 32-yard fade to Lindsay down the right sideline. Lindsay out-wrestled defenders Chris Black and Robert Burnett and headed toward the end zone, but stepped out at the 7.
No problem. Clover jumped back into the lead two plays later on Moore's 1-yard run.
But Beaufort, starting at its 35, went 65 yards in 1:34 and went ahead 14-10 on Byas' second touchdown, a 1-yard run with 28 seconds left.
"This is the best team we've played all year,'' Moore said. "They have studs at every position. But we play hard until the end and made big plays when we needed them.''
CLOVER 23, BEAUFORT 14
Beaufort 0 14 0 0 -- 14
Clover 3 7 6 7 -- 23
C -- Matthew Patterson 48 field goal
B -- Adrene Byas 2 run (Owen Plair kick)
C -- Ricky Moore 1 run (Brandon Humphries kick)
B -- Byas 1 run (Plair kick)
C -- Moore 1 run (kick failed)
C -- Moore 1 run (Humphries kick)
First downs 13 18
Rushes/yards 35-134 56-239
Passing 7-15-5 1-3-0
Passing yards 82 32
Fumbles/lost 1-0 3-1
Penalties/yards 8-59 1-5
RUSHING -- Beaufort: Byas 20-109, Antonio Coaxum 11-26, Brad Gonzalez 3-4, Blake Gruel 1-(-5) Clover: Tyron Douglas 10-83, Chris Douglas 14-56, Steven Sanders 10-45, Moore 14-44, Matt Endicott 4-12, Montae Monroe 3-8, Team 1-(-9).
PASSING -- Beaufort: Gruel 7-15-5-82. Clover: Endicott 1-3-0-32.
RECEIVING -- Beaufort: Michael Ginn 4-49, Jimmie Legree 3-33. Clover: Chris Lindsay 1-32.
RECORDS -- Clover 13-2; Beaufort 12-3