Green Sea Floyds won’t surprise anyone this fall.

In winning the first state title in school history last year, the Trojans shed their underdog reputation. They also earned the inevitable target that comes with being champions.

“We’ve been talking about it since the season ended,” coach Donnie Kiefer said. “It was a great accomplishment and it was something nobody expected and it was something to be happy about and celebrate and all that, but this also comes with a price. Because now everybody is after you. Everybody wants to beat you.”

Pressure aside, this is where Kiefer wants to be. When he arrived at the 1A school two years ago, the Trojans had never reached the third round of the playoffs. They didn’t win a single game in 2014 and mustered just one victory the following season. In 2016, the team went 6-6 and won its first playoff game in 13 years, but the school cut ties with coach Tony Sullivan at the end of the season. When Kiefer was hired the following spring, he declared that a .500 season — even one with a playoff win — would be considered a down year. 

Kiefer’s first season was marred by the suspension of nine players and the dismissal of three starters after a fight during the Creek Bridge game. Still, the Trojans again made the second round of the playoffs and narrowly lost Baptist Hill, which reached the state championship game that year.

Then came the Trojans’ magical 2018. They went 10-3 and upset Lamar in the state title contest, placing them in their opponents’ crosshairs this fall.

“You want high expectations,” Kiefer said. “My whole career has been kind of going into programs that were down and turning them around. The hardest thing is to not get complacent, not feel like ‘OK, we’ve arrived. We won the state championship. We don’t have anything else to prove.’ My motto has kind of always been, ‘Complacency is the enemy.’ … We’ve got to work harder than ever.”

For the Trojans, there’s certainly no shortage of talent this year. With most of their starters returning, Green Sea Floyds will again have their dynamic duo of rushers in Jaquan Dixon and Anwain Graham. Quarterback Bubba Elliott is back under center as well. Defensively, the Trojans return 1A Defensive Player of the Year AJ Campbell at safety and fellow veteran safety Aaron Graham. 

The Trojans also have a special teams advantage that smaller schools often lack — a solid kicking game. Freddie Sarotto broke all the school's kicking records last year as a sophomore and he will be back.

Even with so much returning talent, replicating last year’s success is a steep challenge.

The Trojans’ non-region schedule includes matchups with larger schools such as Aynor, Loris and Hannah-Pamplico, as well as tough contests against Baptist Hill and Timmonsville. The region’s other two teams, Lake View and Hemingway, are also perennial powers. Lake View won the 2016 state championship and Hemingway lost to Green Sea in last year’s lower state title game.

“All three of us have been there and done that,” Kiefer said. “That’s a very strong conference for a little three-team conference.”

Despite the challenges of repeating, the Trojans remain optimistic.

“The chemistry is our big strength,” Anwain Graham said. “We all grew up together. … We’re all comfortable around each other.”

But like his coach, the senior running back knows the Trojans won’t sneak up on any teams this season.

“I ain’t going to lie,” Anwain Graham said. “The fame we get is nice, but then we also have a lot of haters. We have a lot of people that’s talking junk now, trying to bring us down. We don’t entertain none of that. We just do what we’ve got to do to win another one.”

Contact Charles D. Perry at 843-488-7236

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I'm the editor of myhorrynews.com and the Carolina Forest Chronicle, a weekly newspaper in Horry County, South Carolina. I cover county government, the justice system and agriculture. Know of a story that needs to be covered? Call me at 843-488-7236.

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