Donnie Kiefer found a way to overcome potential apathy involving one of the oddest scheduling occurrences he can remember.
Green Sea Floyds, courtesy of last week’s idle time and this week’s first-round playoff bye, will go three weeks between games at the most crucial part of the year. The Trojans are also the defending state champion and are among a small number of teams who anyone could consider a frontrunner to win the Class 1A title this fall.
It would be easy to see some complacency creep into the mix.
“We know our system well enough. We’ve installed some things, so that has kept their interest high,” Kiefer said. “It’s not just what we’ve been running since spring practice. … Our kids know the ramifications. It’s not just ‘We have two weeks off.’ We have to get better every day.”
Kiefer, for what it is worth, loves the idea of his guys resting up just prior to the playoffs. When he was coaching in North Carolina and had the option, he frequently used the final Friday of the regular season as his idle week.
This year’s quirk, though, is somewhat new territory.
It started back in the spring when it was announced that Creek Bridge would be closing at the end of the 2018-2019 school year. Since that came at the midway point of the two-year scheduling block, Green Sea Floyds (and fellow region teams Lake View and Hemingway), were having a hard time finding anyone to fill in that date. Kiefer said he only options were Class 4A or 5A teams more than 150 miles away, so it was never a serious alternative.
Then, the Trojans earned a second straight off week by winning Region VI-1A and getting a first-round bye for the playoffs. And while it wasn’t an off week, the team’s last game — a 62-7 win over Hemingway on Oct. 25 — was little more than a glorified scrimmage against a winless team.
None of Green Sea Floyds’ top players had to exert themselves much, as none of those ball carriers had more than eight touches aside from quarterback Bubba Elliott, who was taking snaps. Granted, the Trojans haven’t been tested since they lost to Aynor on Sept. 20. In the next five games, they won by an average of 44 points per contest.
So while some of the playoff games are expected to be blowouts, too, there is a touch of uncertainty.
“We could come out flat having not played. I feel like we’re remaining sharp. But you never know,” Kiefer said. “… It’s a really good learning time for us. Self-evaluation and those things often get overlooked when you’re playing 10 weeks in a row.”
When the playoffs do begin, Green Sea Floyds will face the winner of this week’s St. John’s and Bethune-Bowman game, and Kiefer said he intends to have someone from his staff scouting that game live.
REGULAR-SEASON STATS LEADERS
For the numbers geeks among us, the regular season provided plenty of player notability throughout.
And while several players in the leaders for passing, rushing and receiving will go on to pad their numbers over the next few weeks in the playoffs, the end of the regular season is as equal footing as we’ll see to make comparisons.
Green Sea Floyds running back Jaquan Dixon may ultimately jump off the leader board more than anyone else. In just nine games, the Trojans senior put up 1,306 yards and 20 touchdowns — on just 98 carries. That means he averaged 13.3 yards per carry and scored a touchdowns on one-fifth of his rushes.
Until last week, Dixon was the area’s lone 1,000-yard rusher, although he got some company from Aynor quarterback Andrew Brown (1,026 yards) and St. James tailback Malachi Butler (1,019 yards). Next up on the list is Carolina Forest senior David Legette, who is just 20 yards shy of the 1,000-yard plateau heading into this week’s playoff opener against Cane Bay.
After Legette, only two more players will likely threaten that mark this year. Green Sea Floyds quarterback Bubba Elliott is 206 yards short and Aynor’s Fred Pollard is 266 yards from 1,000. No other players whose season is still alive are within 400 yards of it.
Not surprisingly, the area’s top two passers are who we expected from the get-go. Myrtle Beach’s Luke Doty has thrown for an area-best 1,817 yards and 25 touchdowns and is on pace to surpass 2,000 yards this week against Lakewood to start the playoffs. Carolina Forest senior Mason Garcia is likely two games away from reaching that mark, as his 1,659 yards and 14 passing touchdowns are both second in Horry County.
More than likely, Conway’s Carlton Terry Jr. is going to finish third in both categories. He is already there in touchdowns (13) and is 11 yards behind Loris’ Gage Conner in passing yards. Conner’s season is complete.
With many stats, they can be lost in the shuffle or maybe don’t mean exactly what they suggest. However, with the area’s receivers, they are actually quite descriptive of the ups and downs of the 2019 season.
Take Horry County’s leading receiver, Conway’s Xavier Kinlaw. The senior speedster started out the year as the team’s running back (although head coach Carlton Terry always intended him to be a multiple formation type of player). Kinlaw caught one pass in the season opener and just two the next week, both losses.
Then, the offense started tinkering with other ways to use him, and his numbers started to take off. In nine games, he snagged not only the area’s lead for yards (761), but also in receptions (44) and is tied with Myrtle Beach’s J.J. Jones in touchdowns with 11. What’s more, Kinlaw has a reception of 30-plus yards in six consecutive games heading into the playoffs, which open at home against Wando this week for Conway.