After a four-year hiatus, Porter-Gaud and Bishop England resume one of the oldest rivalries in the Lowcountry when the two schools meet on the football field at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
The game will be televised on WMMP, but you can be sure Bishop England principal Michael Bolchoz and Porter-Gaud head of school DuBose Egleston Jr. will be there in person to monitor the situation at Bishop England's Jack Cantey Stadium.
The rivalry has been interrupted twice because of the senseless acts of a few students, and Thursday's showdown will mark the first time the schools have met in athletic competition since 2008.
In September 1997, both schools were vandalized by students in the days leading up to the Bishop England vs. Porter-Gaud football game. The vandalism included spray painting of buses, walls and fences at the two schools. At Porter-Gaud, a monument was damaged and a figure was hung in effigy.
The schools didn't play again until January 2000 when the Bishops hosted the Cyclones in a basketball game on their new Daniel Island campus.
But in January 2008, three Bishop England students were arrested and accused of beating a Porter-Gaud student after a basketball game between the rivals, and all athletic contests between the schools were canceled.
Both Bolchoz and Egleston said the time is right to renew the rivalry.
“I believe the best athletic competitions are built when you already have a close relationship with and a mutual appreciation for the other school,” Egleston said. “Bishop England is almost 100 years old and Porter-Gaud is almost 150 years old, so we have a long history together in Charleston. We have quite a bit of crossover in terms of alumni, families and fans. For these reasons, everyone in the Porter-Gaud community is looking forward to returning to healthy competition with Bishop England.”
Healthy is the key word. The rivalry has been called the “Holy War” and might have pushed the envelope a little too far.
Bolchoz, who graduated from Bishop England in 1983, always enjoyed the competition and had many friends who played for Porter-Gaud. He's happy the tradition will continue, but hopes the term “Holy War” is a thing of the past.
“No offense to the person who coined that phrase for this game, but I have thought from Day 1 that it is a gross overstatement that makes little sense,” Bolchoz said. “While we are an absolutely Catholic school and Porter is Episcopalian, I have never once associated this game with anything remotely tied to our separate religious heritages or backgrounds. I felt this way as a player, a coach and a spectator, and now I feel this way as the principal.”
Bolchoz and Egleston said both schools have always stressed good sportsmanship, strong moral values and common sense.
“We work at Bishop England, just as Porter-Gaud does on its campus, to instill Christian values of respect and humility in all of our students,” Bolchoz said. “This is something we do on a daily basis in every classroom and in every extracurricular activity. Part of this process is for our students to understand that there are consequences for not meeting expectations. These lessons apply to all of our endeavors, not just a football rivalry.”
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Follow Phil Bowman on Twitter: @pandcphil.