Tony Sullivan didn’t waste time during spring practice or over the summer beating down his players.
The first-year Green Sea Floyds head coach wasn’t interested in mentioning win totals from the last six years or some of those ugly scores during that timeframe. No, he had a different approach.
“The bottom line is I’m the sixth head coach in 10 years,” Sullivan said. “No one has given these kids a chance. No one has been there year in and year out to establish the program.
“Some of them want to be in testing the waters, wanting to see what it’s going to be like. They feel let down because of the coaching changes.”
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The message appears to have worked. Despite the graduation of six seniors from last year’s squad – all 12 of whom were listed on the team’s two-deep depth chart in 2011 – and several underclassmen transferring out of area or quitting the team, the numbers are solid.
In total, 38 players showed up for the beginning of fall camp. That’s 10 more than the Trojans played with all of last season, when Green Sea Floyds struggled once again.
The Trojans started out 2-0 before losing seven of their final eight games under Joey Still. The lone region victory came against Creek Bridge. The Trojans defense gave up more than 31 points per game, and outside of tailback Devarus Spain – who combined for 1,216 yards rushing and receiving – the bright spots were hard to come by.
Now, the team is starting from scratch in more ways than one.
In addition to the first-year head coach, the team is going to have to find new starters at quarterback, running back, receiver, both offensive tackles, defensive line, linebacker and in the secondary.
Sullivan isn’t necessarily viewing that as a bad thing, though. After spending 12 years as an assistant coach and 10 of those as a defensive coordinator, he’s implementing new schemes on both sides of the ball. Offensively, he’s installing a Pro-I offense that will put the ball in the hands of Rashad Bessant, an experienced back ready to take on more responsibility.
“I’ve been waiting in line behind a few great running backs since I was in ninth grade – Lassan Reaves, Devarus,” Bessant said. “I learned a lot from those guys. It doesn’t feel different. I was preparing for it.”
The team has yet to identify a quarterback to take over for Holden Clark – who transferred out of the area. But it appears 6-foot-4, 220-pound Devante Dawkins could be that player. He started out last season as a receiver, and Sullivan said he will likely still see time there, as well.
Defensively, it could all circle around senior linebacker Josh Collins, the team’s top tackler from a year ago.
Add in freshman Quinlan Moore and a significant number of other first-year players, and the team doing its best to think long term.
“They’ve shown a commitment that they want to succeed,” Sullivan said.
The Trojans will also receive a bit of a boost in terms of the region schedule. Region VIII-A is back to a six-team league. Carvers Bay and Hemingway, two teams that routinely beat up on Green Sea Floyds in recent years, have shifted to Region VII-A. In their place is Hannah-Pamplico, a team that went 3-7 a year ago.
The trick may be getting to region play with health intact.
Green Sea Floyds will play five schools from larger classes in those five non-region games. And while they may bring about a few extra bumps and bruises, the games that matter the most may seem a tick easier.
Bessant, though, isn’t tapering expectations. He and the rest of the seniors are thinking much bigger than their recent history would suggest.
“My goal is to get to the state championship,” he said. “If we lose more than two games, it’s a letdown. I know most people would laugh at that statement. But they’re not with us practicing. They’re not with us in the weight room.”