Green Sea Floyds defeated Lake View 29-18 Friday night in the 1A lower state title game.
The victory means the Trojans will play for their second straight championship next week.
“I thought both teams played extremely hard tonight,” GSF coach Donnie Kiefer said. “Both teams got after it and they caused us to put the ball on the ground a couple of times, which threw us off our rhythm a bit. But we were able to bounce back.”
The Trojans started off the game with a bang as Aaron Graham returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, giving Green Sea Floyds a 7-0 lead.
While Lake View was able to get some things going on the offensive side of the ball, the Wild Gators scored off a deflected punt that was recovered in the end zone. Following a missed two-point conversion, the Wild Gators only trailed by one midway through the first quarter.
The teams traded possessions for a majority of the second quarter but with just under four minutes to go in the half, Lake View saw a pass intercepted by GSF's Lucas McDowell.
“It was just about reviewing the plays we had run in practice,” McDowell said. “We had a game plan going into tonight about the plays that they possibly could’ve run against us and the quarterback ran a slant or a post route and I was able to get underneath the receiver and he threw it right to me.”
The McDowell interception would help set up a 13-yard Bubba Elliot-Jaquan Dixon connection for a touchdown. The ensuing two-point conversion gave the Trojans a 15-6 lead with 2:24 left in the first half.
On the following drive, the Trojan defense came up huge again, stopping the Wild Gators twice inside the 3 yard line in the final 20 seconds to keep a nine-point lead at the half.
Neither team could get their offense going in the third quarter until Green Sea Floyds' Dixon found the end zone for a second time on the night, making it 22-6.
Lake View cut the deficit to 10 following a play that featured their running back fumbling the ball and having a teammate recover it and take it the remaining distance to the end zone.
Lake View had many chances to trim the deficit following an interception midway through the fourth quarter. However, the Trojans' defense once again came up with another critical stop, forcing a fumble and giving the ball back to Green Sea Floyds with less than five minutes to play in the game.
“It was all about leadership tonight,” said McDowell, who also recovered a fumble for the Trojans. “It’s not always about being physical. There are times when you have to know what you are going to do out there in the field and get the job done.”
Dixon sealed the win for Green Sea with his third touchdown of the night, making it 29-12 with just under 3:30 to play.
“He was nursing an ankle injury all night and I asked him for a big play,” Kiefer said. “He told me ‘I got you’ and broke off for that touchdown and I knew it was over.”
Lake View would tack on a touchdown at the end, but it wouldn’t make a difference in the outcome.
“Going to Columbia is something we have been dreaming about since middle school,” McDowell said. “We had the opportunity tonight to make it back for a second straight year and we weren’t going to let anybody get in our way of that.”
Success has been a recent phenomenon for Green Sea Floyds, which until last season's title run hadn’t had a winning season since 2007. But players and coaches said locals appreciate what they've done.
"Tonight was definitely a unifying event in our community," Kiefer said. "For a small community like Green Sea Floyds, this is a big thing. There’s not much around here and a Friday night football game is the biggest show in town. We are ecstatic that we can give them a quality program."
The Trojans will face Ridge Spring-Monetta in the 1A state championship game next week. Ridge Spring-Monetta stunned undefeated Wagner-Salley 26-22 Friday night.
Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. at Benedict College.