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'BIG BLUE' RULES

Clover fans cheer and wave towels during the first half.
Clover fans cheer and wave towels during the first half.

COLUMBIA -- Tears rolled down the cheeks of some Clover fans at the end of the state high school football championship Friday night, but there was no sadness.

"We are state champions, ya'll," shouted Tammy Provine for anyone who might still be in disbelief.

The scoreboard gave further proof. Clover: 23. Beaufort: 14. Time: 00:00.

With a deafening blow from her air gun, Provine confirmed it was not a dream. Clover had won its first state championship.

"Awesome," said Calvin Hallman of Clover, who was wearing Clover shirt. "Awesome game."

With hugs, cheers and a few happy dances, the fans lingered at the Williams-Brice Stadium to celebrate the win that had eluded them for decades.

Clover had a "hump" to get over said one fan -- a hump they hadn't been able to overcome for 62 years when they lost to Beaufort 26-0.

At last, they had revenge for the game lost in 1945.

"We're so proud of these guys," said Mayor Donnie Grice, between shouts of joy. "This has been more than 60 years in the making. They wanted this worse than the other team."

The 3,000 tickets the high school had for the game sold out Friday. Fans estimated that at least half the town of Clover had come out.

Many said they weren't surprised by the win. These fans who traveled to Columbia Friday night had been watching the team all season. They knew that what they lacked in size they would make up for in heart.

Before game time, while many tailgated in the parking lots with their grills and burgers, the question was not if Clover would win but by how much.

"I think -- as a matter of fact I know -- who's going to win," Christopher Kennedy said before the game. "Clover's going to win all the way."

He predicted the final score would be 35-24.

"Twenty-four-17," said Todd Bailey of Clover.

"At least by 10 points," said Jim DeJacimo, whose son once played football for Clover.

They were right about the win.

Even when the team was down by four in the second half the fans' faith didn't waver.

"They're a second-half team," said Denise Long, whose son is on the team.

At the end, she was as proud as she could be.

"I told you so," she shouted between hugs with other moms who had traveled together to watch the game.

The fans were happy for the team. They were happy for the town. But most of all they were happy for the boys who had worked so hard to fulfill their goals.

"The boys have heart. They play hard," said Smitty Ballard of Clover. "A lot of boys that put on a uniform tonight, this will be their last game playing. Some of them will go to school, some of them will work, but they're hearts are good."

Go to heraldonline.com for expanded coverage of Friday's Clover-Beaufort game:

• Video highlights

• Photo gallery

Also, check out heraldonline.com tonight for regular scoring updates from the Chester vs. Wilson Class AAA state championship.

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