It took 612 games and countless hours in the car, sometimes sniffling through a cold in the stands, but Jimmy Searson finally saw the Beaufort High School football game he so desperately wanted to witness.
His beloved Beaufort Eagles are state champs.
With a 41-31 win over the Powdersville Patriots in which they imposed their will with an unstoppable running game and locked in on defense to pitch a fourth-quarter shutout, the Eagles claimed the SCHSL Class 3A state title Thursday at Benedict College and ended a 77-year drought, the last five decades of which Searson has taken personally.
“I didn’t know if I would ever see a state championship for Beaufort in my lifetime, but God blessed me with one, and what a game it was,” Searson said. “I still can’t believe it. It’s exciting to finally see them win one.”
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The fans on Lady’s Island are a loyal bunch, and they can get quite raucous when the Eagles are going good. But no one’s love for the Green & White surpasses Searson’s. He shows up every Friday, decked out in his Beaufort Eagles gear, and can recite an oral history of Beaufort football off the cuff.
But if you’re trying to do the math and figuring anyone who has been to 612 high school football games featuring the same team must be pushing triple digits by now, think again. Jimmy started early, and he’s only missed two games … in his life. He’s only 50, but those games add up quickly when you never miss one and your team makes a deep playoff run just about every season.
Searson played in his share of games for the Eagles under coach Greg Hall, a lifelong dream in its own right after spending every fall Friday in the stands cheering for Beaufort as a kid. The connection continued after high school, and even when he moved up the road to Walterboro, Jimmy kept making the trek to see his Eagles every week, near or far.
He thought he might see the big one in 2007, when the Eagles lost to Clover in the Class 4A Division II title game, and the hope was doused early in last year’s 41-7 loss to South Pointe, but Jimmy only had to watch 14 more games — including one that was in doubt due to illness — to witness the one he coveted.
“I just knew this group of guys could make it back this year,” Searson said. “Seeing Coach Lybrand and all the coaches and players on the field holding up that championship plaque. Man, it’s the greatest feeling in the world. I’ll be celebrating for a long time.”
But don’t think this means Jimmy is done attending every Eagles game.
“You know, before I leave this Earth I hope to see another one,” Searson said. “But I’m gonna enjoy this one for as long as I can.”
By Justin Jarrett
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