It may be an unpopular form of thought, but Donnie Kiefer is in no hurry for the 2017 football season to arrive.
Entering his first season as football coach at Green Sea Floyds, the veteran football coach – prior to heading south he was one of North Carolina’s active winningest coaches – has his reasons.
“I’m a football lifer, I enjoy the process,” he said. “I’ve been at this for 38 or 39 years, 32 of which have come as a coach. The challenge of changing states really excites me.
“I was in North Carolina for more than 30 years … I knew everyone, everyone knew me. This is just like starting over.”
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Kiefer admittedly did his best to soak in every drop of this summer he could, utilizing it to get acquainted with his new team. It was also an opportunity for the players to learn about their coach, as well as his scheme and expectations.
“I’m not into rushing the process,” he said. “Some (coaches) are ready to start playing games. I look at (the summer) as a time where our players can become smarter, and therefore become better football players.
“The season is long, it will take care of itself.”
Previously at Central Cabarrus (Concord, N.C.), Kiefer was able to select from a pool of more than 1,700 students. As for Green Sea Floyds, a mere 328 students attended the school according to the latest daily headcount provided by the S.C. High School League (SCHSL).
Up to 40 players have attended this summer’s slate of activities, ranging from regular conditioning to 7-on-7 passing leagues. The new Trojans head man has also brought in junior varsity players two days a week to participate in workouts.
“It’s been very productive,” Kiefer said. “The kids are working hard and making progress. We’ve had several 7-on-7s, and we’ve held our own against larger schools. Obviously, there is no contact but from a strength and conditioning aspect, learning our offensive and defensive system, I’d say things are going well.”
The 2016 gridiron campaign was one to remember for those in the northern end of Horry County, with Green Sea Floyds claiming its first playoff victory in more than a decade. Unfortunately for Kiefer, it left the cupboard rather bare in terms of experience going into the upcoming season.
I’m not into rushing the process. Some (coaches) are ready to start playing games. I look at (the summer) as a time where our players can become smarter, and therefore become better football players. The season is long, it will take care of itself.
Green Sea Floyds football coach Donnie Kiefer
Chief among the voids is at quarterback, where senior Shaquan Gillard and sophomore Ethan Damron are competing for the starting job. Sophomore Bubba Elliott is also in the running, though he’s more likely to serve as a backup.
Gillard — who sparingly saw time at running back last season — could also see time at another spot in the backfield or at wideout.
“The thing is, (Gillard) can play anywhere, whereas (Damron) might be more limited where he can play,” Kiefer said. “But this competition will be most about who is producing; seniority will have nothing to do with our decision who plays. Whoever is performing the best of them, that is who will get the job.”
Last season, the tandem of Akil Gause and Mahammud Graham combined for more than 2,000 yards on the ground. When the duo graduated this past spring, however, it left a good portion of the team’s offensive production.
In an effort to make up for that void, Kiefer expects the Trojans to have a committee of running backs. Among those expected to see their share of the workload include Jaquan Dixon, Anwain Graham, Hunter Hucks and Josh Slobodiak.
Heavily reliant on the run a season ago, the 2017 Green Sea Floyds Trojans have intentions of being a bit more balanced.
Upon taking the job this spring, Kiefer was pleasantly surprised upon finding the weapons at his disposal in the pass game. Among those is senior wideout Shaquille Johnson, a 6-foot-3 target who should offer a big, physical presence for whomever earns the job at quarterback.
Also being given the opportunity to contribute are rising juniors Rashii Brisbon and Eric Small, as well as sophomore A.J. Campbell.
Though not expected to have a ton of depth on either the offensive or defensive line, the new Trojans football coach said there are some serviceable bodies to work with.
Joseph Martin — a state junior varsity weightlifting champion a year ago — will anchor both lines of scrimmage, with Covea Farris, Darrell Fullard, Quan Jackson and Charlie Rudolph also getting their share of reps.
Tysen Sorrell will also see time on the Green Sea Floyds offensive line, playing center. He will not see double duty in the trenches, though, with Kiefer penciling him in at middle linebacker on defense.
As for who will join him in the Green Sea Floyds back seven, Elliott and Graham are likely to start at two of the cornerback positions, while Campbell is fighting to earn the other. Johnson and Slobodiak are expected to man the safety spots, though Damron and Gillard also should receive their share of reps.
Kiefer does want marked improvement by his team in at least one facet of the game, though.
“Though our return game should be good due to having so many explosive athletes, our kicking game will still be a big question,” he said. “We need to find a kicker. Last year, I don’t know if the team kicked much, if at all. We want to be able to kick wherever we want to.
“Games can be won and lost on special teams, so developing kickers and punters is a priority for us.”
Green Sea Floyds
Coach: Donnie Kiefer (224-151 career, first season at Green Sea Floyds)
2016 record: 6-6, 2-3 Region VI-3A (lost to C.E. Murray in second round of Class A playoffs)
Key players: Shaquan Gilliard (Sr., RB/DB), Josh Slobodiak (Jr., RB), Shaquille Johnson (Sr., WR/DB), Tysen Sorrell (Jr., OL/LB), Joseph Martin (Jr., OL/DL)
The word: Following a record-setting season at the northern end of Horry County, one could not have foreseen change to be afoot. After Tony Sullivan led the program to its first playoff win in a decade, he was dismissed earlier this year, with North Carolina coaching legend Donnie Kiefer taking over. A ground-based attack a season ago, the Trojans will take to the air a bit more this season — though they will still continue to run the football. Due to a number of moving pieces due to graduation, exactly how the team stacks up defensively remains a question mark. Playing in Region 6-A will remain tough, as reigning state champions in Lake View and perennial powerhouse Hemingway reside in the league.