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As Chip Mullen ran toward the end zone -- his eyes wider with each step -- teammates began to join him on his march toward glory.
The 40, the 30, the 20.
A convoy of Hilton Head High players surrounded him. They, too, wanted to take part in the remarkable moment.
The 10, the 5. Touchdown.
Mullen dropped the ball. He held his hands in the air. You couldn't miss his smile.
The Seahawks celebrated as they hugged their teammate, a senior who has Down syndrome. Their opponent -- Berkeley High School -- rushed onto the field to shake Mullen's hand.
And at least for a moment, the distractions of a season filled with turmoil seemed to disappear.
The horn sounded. The Seahawks lost the game, 31-20, and Berkeley took the Region 7-AAA opener.
But this night suddenly belonged to Chip Mullen.
"That just about makes your heart bleed," a Berkeley fan said. "I want to shake that young man's hand."
Seahawks coach Tim Singleton told his players to sit on one knee following the game. He then asked Mullen to stand up.
"Three claps for our MVP," Singleton said. "Another. Another."
Mullen stood. He smiled again. He waved his arms in the air as his teammates clapped.
He had his moment.
The Seahawks missed theirs.
After clinging to a 7-0 lead for the majority of the first half, the upset-minded Seahawks allowed Berkeley to score a pair of touchdowns in the final two minutes of the second quarter, which the Stags used to pull away for the 11-point victory.
Berkeley running back Greg Butler scored on a 7-yard carry -- his only rush of the game -- to tie the game with 1:36 remaining in the opening half.
And then the wheels fell off for the Seahawks, who dropped to 2-4.
Trying to run out the final minute of the clock, the Seahawks fumbled the snap, the Stags picked it up, scored on the ensuing play -- a 15-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Harkness to Dylan Baker -- and took a 14-7 lead into halftime.
Diamante Harley added to the lead when he returned the second-half kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown. Harley had a punt return in the first half called back for holding. He later scored on a 2-yard rush.
"I was frustrated when that got called back. Pretty disappointed," Harley said. "I wanted another shot, and I got one. I wanted to make it count."
The Seahawks cut the deficit to 10 on a 42-yard touchdown strike from Michael Julian to Adam Orischak in the fourth quarter, but the damage was done in both teams' region openers.
The Seahawks turned the ball over three times.
"That is a good ballclub, but we gave them every opportunity they had," Singleton told his team in its post-game huddle. Singleton has declined comment to The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette since serving a two-week suspension earlier this season. "I like our effort, but we can't give teams those opportunities."
Berkeley 31, Hilton Head High 20
HHH--Khalil Lewis 2 run (Mott kick), 0:53.
B--Greg Butler 7 run (Nick Hill kick), 1:36.
B--Dylan Baker 15 pass from Matthew Harkness (Nick Hill kick), 0:38.
B--Diamante Harley 95 kickoff return (Nick Hill kick), 11:42.
B--Hill 31 field goal, 1:19.
HHH--Adam Orischak 42 pass from Michael Julian (Mott kick), 10:38.
B--Harley 2 run (Nick Hill kick), 6:00.
HHH--Chip Mullen 65 fumble return (time expired), 0:00.