After years of toiling in the considerable shadow cast by the boys' soccer program at national power Wando High School, the James Island Trojans have broken into the spotlight this season.
BOYS SOCCER PLAYOFFS
Bluffton at Stratford
Spring Valley at Ashley Ridge
Fort Dorchester at Wando
West Ashley at Summerville
Hanahan at Myrtle Beach
North Myrtle Beach at James Island
Stall at Socastee
St. James at Hilton Head
Edisto at Academic Magnet
Ridgeland-Hardeeville at Bishop England
Battery Creek at Silver Bluff
Timberland at Waccamaw
James Island, which dropped from Class AAAA to AAA last year, claimed its first outright region championship since 1997, and begins the playoffs Tuesday as the third-seeded team in the Lower State.
"We've always had a David vs. Goliath situation in AAAA, especially with Wando in our region," said James Island coach Todd Robinson, in his 11th season with the Trojans. "Our boys have really been hungry and they really worked for it this season. We drove them hard, but they've been really disciplined and that's been great to see."
Wando, the largest high school in the state with more than 3,500 students, has overshadowed many programs, not just James Island's. The Warriors won a state title in 2011, made the finals in 2012 and are ranked No. 1 in the nation this season. Over a nine-year stretch, James Island finished second to Wando in region standings six times.
James Island, with fewer than 1,400 students, was placed in Class AAA for two years during the 2012-14 realignment by the S.C. High School League and has made the most of its opportunity in boys soccer.
Last year, the Trojans were the only team to defeat eventual AAA champion Hilton Head. This season, James Island beat Hilton Head twice to claim the Region 8-AAA title, and also took wins over Bishop England, West Ashley, Hanahan, Summerville, Beaufort and Cane Bay en route to a 14-3 regular season. The Trojans are ranked No. 6 in the state in Class AAA.
"Our teams have always played bigger than what our school is," said Robinson, who was an assistant to former Wando coach Tom Reilly before coming to James Island. "But these last two years, we've been matched up with schools more our size and we've been able to show the quality that we have."
Garrett Glaze, a senior centerback, is the first James Island player to make the Clash of the Carolinas all-star game, set for July 12 at Blackbaud Stadium. He will play soccer at Presbyterian starting in the fall.
"He's a very vocal leader and keeps everyone motivated," Robinson said. "He keeps everyone in line and leads by example, in word and deed."
Another senior, Lars Bentley, patrols the midfield and helps out on defense.
"He reads the game so well," Robinson said. "He can tell what's going to happen before it happens. Those guys are the rock the team is built around." The Trojans open the playoffs against North Myrtle Beach today, with second-ranked Brookland-Cayce and No. 3 Myrtle Beach also in the Lower State bracket.
Elsewhere in Class AAA, Hanahan is at Myrtle Beach and Stall is at Socastee.