Henry Player of the Year
By Brian Paglia
On the sixth offensive play of Eagle's Landing Christian's season-opener against North Florida Christian, Keyante Green got injured. The sophomore running back didn't play on offense the rest of the game, but he stayed in at middle linebacker and helped the Chargers defeat one of the top Class A teams in Florida, 27-0.
Green's injury caused him to miss most of the next 2 1/2 games on offense. ELCA went into the season believing it could win a state championship, but the Chargers knew they could not without their top running back healthy. Even Green was worried.
"I was worried I wouldn't be able to come back in time for the Manchester game, which I didn't play in," Green said. "But I felt like it was a team thing, and it shouldn't all revolve around one person."
And yet, when Green returned from the Chargers' bye week healthy and back in top form, it was no coincidence that ELCA hit its stride. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound running back was arguably the most important player on a Chargers' team that ended the season ranked No. 3 in Class A by the Associated Press and finished 12-1, their only loss coming to state champion Clinch County on the road in the quarterfinals.
Green rushed for a team-high 1,280 yards and 22 touchdowns on just 125 carries, while also leading the Chargers in tackles with 115. All that despite missing almost three games.
"I felt like I kept getting better," Green said. "It felt like I'm growing more into the high school position and getting better. I'm progressing to get ready for the next level, the college level."
Green somehow improved on his impressive performance as a freshman last season when he rushed for over 1,000 yards and started at linebacker. In the Chargers' biggest games of the season, Green established himself as one of the best players on the field.
When the Chargers defeated then-No. 2 Wesleyan on the road for the Region 5-A championship, the first in school history, Green rushed for 185 yards and three touchdowns, and had 12 tackles.
Despite losing a fourth-quarter lead on the road at Clinch County in the Class A quarterfinals, Green's performance was remarkable. He rushed for 217 yards and three touchdowns, and had 13 tackles in the 34-27 loss.
"People kept telling me that was the championship game," Green said. "It felt like the championship game, because it was No. 1 in the state versus No. 2 in the state. ... It was going back and forth, back and forth. It was touchdown after touchdown.
"I gave it my all on the field. And in giving it my all, I felt like I had something accomplished."
After the game, Clinch County head coach Jim Dickerson marveled at Green's ability.
"He is as good of a running back as I've ever defended in 22 years of high school football," Dickerson said.
After two remarkable seasons of high school football, the buzz over Green has already started. According to Southeast Recruiting Analyst for FOXSports/Scout.com Chad Simmons, recruiting will start to pick up for Green this spring.
"He has good speed, not great speed," Simmons said, "but he has great vision, he can cut back, he has good body lean, he can catch the ball out of the backfield, he's very athletic, he has good academics -- he's very much on the right track."
Green might be on track for stardom, but he's more concerned with keeping the Chargers on track to win their first state championship.
"Next year I look for us to start off in the same way, but progress more and get better through the season," Green said. "As we get better, we should be able to win a state championship next year. That's what I feel."