CHARLESTON—When the Battlin’ Bishops won their football championship recently, it was a big deal in more ways than one.
It marked the first state title for the football program, giving them well deserved legitimacy at the state level and pride in their accomplishments.
It also marked the 100th time that Bishop England High School has won a state championship in sports. “No other school in South Carolina has done that, so it’s something special,” said Paul Runey, athletic director.
Runey said he’s been at Bishop England “all his life” and remembers when the basketball team — featuring his oldest brother — won the school’s very first championship in 1963.
He went on to play ball there himself and in 1974, just after graduation, started coaching JV football for Jack Cantey. Runey said most of the coaches are alums who feel compelled to return to their alma mater.
In fact, the championship-winning football coach is John Cantey, son of Jack, who had led the BE program for 30 years.
Cantey said it was especially moving to win the state title with his dad watching in the stands. The younger Cantey has been head coach for four years, and noted that a lot of people discounted the Bishops. But he knew how much talent the team had and said a state victory was their goal from the beginning. They shut out the Central Eagles from Pageland — defending champs — 10-0.
“It’s awesome for the seniors to finish their career with such a huge win,” Cantey said.
The football team is just the latest in a long line of champions.
In the 2010-11 season alone, the baseball team, girls’ volleyball, boys’ soccer, girls’ tennis and boys’ cross country also earned state championships. In all, 14 of the school’s teams have claimed at least one state title.
Girls’ volleyball leads the pack with 22 titles, followed by girls’ tennis with 16, and boys’ soccer at 15. BE also has state championships in cross-country, track, softball, baseball, basketball, golf, girls’ soccer and boys’ tennis.
“This accomplishment is a testament to the kids,” Runey said. “We have a lot of kids who really work hard all year long.”
Bishop England’s sports have been so dominant that the school has won the Athletic Director’s Cup for the past 11 years for being the top AA sports program in S.C.
Runey said they were also named the top high school program in the state by Sports Illustrated for the decade covering 1994-2004.
He credits much of their success to the 1998 move to Daniel Island and all the sports facilities that came with it. When the school was downtown, Runey said they were like orphans with no facilities of their own, and they practiced and played wherever they could find a spot.
“When we came out here, we probably won the bulk of our championships,” he said.