Green Sea Floyds fans remember when the Trojans couldn't win a ballgame, let alone a state title.
It wasn't that long ago. In 2014, the team lost every game. In fact, between 2008 and 2016, the team won just 24 times.
And yet tonight they will play for their second straight 1A state championship.
“Every community is looking for some kind of identity,” said GSF coach Donnie Kiefer. “This community is known as a farming community with a lot of good people. But athletically, bringing back another state title would bring something new to this community that they can wrap their arms around and identify with.”
Kiefer has certainly changed fans' expectations since he arrived here three years ago. At that time he was hired, the team had not enjoyed a winning season since 2007. Since Kiefer showed up, the Trojans have won 27 games, including last year's state title.
As the team has improved, more fans have come out to watch them play.
“They are happy to have success,” Kiefer said. “There a was stretch where there wasn’t much marked success in football, so this community is happy to see high level success at the high school level.”
He credits his players for embracing the changes to the program.
“The recent success of this program says a lot about the kids and their willingness to buy in to what we have,” Kiefer said. “It would be phenomenal for us to bring back a second straight state title to continue that success.”
The players agree.
“You are always going to play a lot harder when you have more people out there watching you,” senior quarterback Bubba Elliot said. “You have a community relying on you to win, so that makes the stakes a little more high.”
“It’s a great opportunity for us, our seniors and this community,” junior running back Jaquan Dixon said.
Eden Rhodes is part of that community. Although she graduated from South Columbus High School in nearby Tabor City, North Carolina, she has lived in the Green Sea Floyds area for nearly 20 years. Her husband is a 1994 graduate of Green Sea Floyds High School and all three of her children have either gone through or are currently in Green Sea Floyds schools.
While Rhodes' kids play sports, they find time to support all the teams, including football.
“We have always supported Green Sea Floyds athletics, no matter what,” Rhodes said. “These past two years have been exciting and a blessing. Watching the past and recent graduates of Green Sea Floyds come to the games, fill up the stands, and cheer for the Trojans has been nice to witness. My family always looks forward to Friday Night lights.”
The stakes for the team seemed to get higher and higher as last season continued deep into November and eventually December in the state title game. One thing that many community members noticed was the way the team came together after the devastation the area received from Hurricane Florence.
“I saw the definition of family,” Rhodes said. “Many of the players have been together since middle school and all through high school. Collectively, that experience was a drive for them to do better, grow together, and work together- like a family. The team is their family, the coaches are family, and the community is family. It also strengthened their faith in each other and learning that they are stronger together.”
Ahead of the 2019 season, the community of Green Sea Floyds was hit with the tragic loss of Tanner Buffkin, a freshman who had been diagnosed with leukemia earlier in the year. Ever since the loss of their classmate, the Trojans have stepped onto the field and dedicated their games to Tanner.
“There’s an orange ribbon painted on the field with the hashtag ‘TannerStrong,’” Rhodes said. “Once again, you saw this team rally behind a cause and dedicate their games to a fellow member of the community. Now that’s family!”
This season is one of the best in program history. With an 11-1 record, a second consecutive state title would be yet another milestone for program that couldn’t break .500 for nearly a decade.
“They have had tremendous success in back to back years and I know that the Green Sea Floyds community is very proud of their team,” said Horry County school board member Chris Hardwick. “We hope that they can continue this success for many more years.”
So what would back-to-back titles mean for the Green Sea Floyds community?
“Witnessing this group of athletes and coaches accomplish feats that have never been attained in the past and earning titles for the first time in school history is quite amazing,” Rhodes said. “The players are role models to the upcoming athletes and they are setting a good example and good leaders. Humility has kept them level-headed helped brushed off the distractions. I definitely praise the parents and coaches for instilling that character in them. Regardless of the outcome Friday night, we are extremely proud of the Green Sea Floyds Trojans.”
The SCHSL Class A State Championship game between Green Sea Floyds and Ridge Spring-Monetta is scheduled to kickoff at 8 p.m. at Charlie W. Johnson Stadium on the campus of Benedict College in Columbia. Myhorrynews.com will have coverage throughout the game.