by Liz McCafferty
Okay, full disclosure: Everything I know about football would fit in the bowl of a kickoff tee. But that doesn’t stop me from enjoying one of this town’s perennial family-friendly fall activities—game night at James Island Charter High School.
It’s a breezy late summer evening. The sun sets behind the visitor bleachers and the energy at the season’s first varsity home game for the Trojans is palpable. Fans decked out in blue and orange pass through event security and enter the gate, where the smell of grilled hotdogs and crispy French fries beckons us to line up at the concession window. The volunteers who prepare and serve the food are members of the JICHS Athletic Booster Club and represent all of the sports teams associated with the school.
Along the fence where scores of banners promote local businesses, Band Backer volunteers set up their fundraising table, selling 50-50 tickets for a cash prize and fresh baked cookies and brownies.
The drumline can be heard just outside the gate as the band and colorguard prepare to enter Floyd E. Hiott Jr. Field. Although it’s named for man who served as principal from 1973-1998, the facility is affectionately known as “The Backyard.” An eight-lane track circles the gridiron and the stadium seats about 3700.
Tim Thorn, JICHS principal wears a blue and orange Trojans baseball cap and gameday polo and has a walkie-talkie radio attached to his belt. A former high school science teacher, Thorn moved from Ohio to the area in 2014 and was officially appointed principal at JICHS in May 2017. With the recommendation of Athletic Director Jeremy Holland, Thorn decided to hire a professional event staff to manage game day security. He said the move saved the school approximately $1500. In addition to providing an increased level of service and security, it allows Thorn and the rest of the staff to watch the game and socialize with the community.
“I think it is important that all staff attending the game be able to watch our students perform,” he said. “It means so much to the athletes when you can say “nice catch or interception” because we were able to watch most of the game. Education is all about relationships and watching our students compete is a part of building those relationships.”
A squad of cheerleaders pumps up the crowd. The Pride of the Island Band is warming up the fight songs. Generations of fans take to the stands: alumni, parents of alumni–who who are now grandparents of current students. Pre-schoolers are dancing to the beat of the music while packs of middle schoolers troop in and out of the stands just to see and be seen, and high school students with painted faces show off their school spirit.
There’s plenty of action off the field but when a bombastic announcer calls our attention to the JROTC Color Guard for the presentation of the flag, we stand for the National Anthem. There’s a drone hovering over the field for the coin toss and the action on the field begins. I won’t attempt to explain what happened next, but I can tell you the final score was Trojans 32, Oceanside 21.
Principal Thorn encourages all James Island residents to attend school sporting events, including those new to the area.
“The events are well-managed and safe. The food choices are excellent. We have some very talented players that are fun to watch,” he said. “James Island has a real community feel and attending high school sporting events will only reinforce that sense of belonging. “
You can keep up with all of the JICHS athletic events here JICHS Athletics. But if you’d like to experience the Friday Night Lights at JICHS, there are only a few home games left this season. Each game starts at 7:30 p.m.
Home Game vs. Stratford Sept. 15
Home Game vs. Fort Dorchester Sept. 22
Home Game vs. Summerville Oct. 13 (Homecoming Night)
Home Game vs. Ashley Ridge Oct. 27
Liz McCafferty is a Staff Photographer & Writer for the Bugle and Freelance photographer and blogger.