Four years ago, Green Sea Floyds High School couldn’t muster a single Friday night win.
Last season, the Trojans not only won a playoff contest, they narrowly lost in the second round to a team that went on to play for a state championship.
It’s fair to say the expectations for this rural program have changed.
“The demeanor’s changed,” said senior fullback Josh Slobodiak. “It’s gone from ‘We’re not a good team’ to ‘We know what we can do.’ And we want to strive to do better each and every year.”
Second-year head coach Donnie Kiefer said the program’s lofty goals are not unrealistic.
Although the team finished last season with a 6-6 record, the campaign was marred by the suspension of nine players and the dismissal of three starters after a fight during the Creek Bridge game.
“We were rolling pretty good,” Kiefer said, adding that the absences probably cost the team at least one win and possibly another. “That was a setback.”
But after the team rallied for a strong finish last fall, this year’s group is eager to go further.
The nucleus of returning players includes a veteran offensive line. Three of those linemen squat at least 520 pounds. They will be blocking for a corps of experienced rushers, including running backs Jaquan Dixon and Anwain Graham and the fullback Slobodiak.
Kiefer will also have multiple options at quarterback. Junior Ethan Damron was the starter at the beginning of last season, and junior Bubba Elliott was the signal caller for the final games of 2017. Sophomore Aaron Graham is also in competition for that spot.
“We’re going to play the guy who leads the team the best,” Kiefer said. “That’s the main thing is who can be the leader on the field, have the confidence of the team and then obviously do the things we need to do both running and throwing the football.”
Regardless of which player gets the quarterback position, all three will be playing for the Trojans.
“They’re all really good athletes,” Kiefer said. “They’re all going to start somewhere.”
Defensively, the Trojans lost all-state defensive end Charles Rudolph to graduation, but they will have several linemen who are also elite power lifters. Covea Ferris, Xavier Edwards, Darell Fullard and Joseph Martin are expected to be a force on the D-line.
One bright spot for Green Sea Floyds is that while the team has experienced players, not many are seniors.
“A lot of these guys are still young,” Kiefer said. “Our starting running backs last year were a freshman and a sophomore, and our starting quarterback was a sophomore. So we’re still pretty young, which is always good news as long as these guys are mature enough to handle it.”
One of the biggest challenges Kiefer faced when he came to Green Sea was developing a culture of winning in a place where there wasn’t a history of gridiron success. He said there is still much to do, but this team is capable of changing expectations.
“If you’ve played football at Lake View and you’ve played football at Hemingway through the years, they can look on those championship teams,” he said. “In the history of Green Sea, there’s not really been that championship caliber of football that these guys can look back on and go ‘Hey, we can achieve what they did.’ So that’s a little bit of an uphill battle to try to create a tradition and try to create that mindset of expecting to win. But I think these guys have some of that.”