A heated and historically violent rivalry between local basketball fans got a peculiar twist Tuesday night, when Wando High students said they were beaten because they kneeled into NFL quarterback Tim Tebow's signature praying pose during a game with West Ashley High.
The two teenage fans were punched and kicked -- one to the point of vomiting -- as they walked outside after the game, which ended in a 20-point rout by Wando. Neither required hospitalization.
A mother of one victim thinks West Ashley students felt taunted when Wando fans participated in the act of "Tebowing," in which the participant mimics the Denver Broncos quarterback by dropping to a knee and placing a wrist to the chin. A 17-year-old Wando fan told the police that as he and a friend left the gym and began walking through a breezeway, those West Ashley fans jumped them.
"They were scared for their lives," said Lara Isaac, the 17-year-old's mother. "No was one was manning the exits to make sure this wouldn't happen. The kids who did this apparently knew that."
The incident marked the second consecutive year that the contest has turned violent, raising concerns that security isn't sufficient. In January 2010, a parent was charged with punching a teacher.
Security had been beefed up this time: Seven Charleston Police Department officers and more than 15 administrators were stationed inside the gym.
Jason Sakran, a spokesman for the Charleston County School District, said any surveillance video of the beatings likely wouldn't be released because the case involves juveniles.
"We have numerous athletic events every year and extra supports on hand for large games such as this," he said. "Tuesday night's game was no exception."
Charles Francis, a police spokesman, said the video would likely reveal whether officers took the proper actions.
"Officers did break up a fight after the basketball game," he said. "The (school resource) officer reiterated to me that an officer wouldn't stand by and not do anything if they saw someone being assaulted."
But Isaac said the police presence outside wasn't enough.
Her son was chased into a parking lot by a group of boys, according to a police incident report. He tried to defend himself, but his attackers slammed him to the pavement, kicked and punched him. He came home with a torn shirt, scraped knees and elbows, and a welt on his forehead.
The other boy was punched in the stomach so many times that he began vomiting in the bushes outside the doorway. Isaac said Wando athletic officials came to that boy's aid.
Richard Luden, West Ashley High's athletic director who said he wasn't aware of the fight, said security again will be a focus in the teams' second matchup of the season, scheduled for Jan. 27. But violence shouldn't be a major concern for students and parents, he said.
"I don't know why it rears its head during these basketball games," Luden said. "I felt we did everything on our end of it."