BLUFF CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – As the calendar turns to August, high school football teams in Northeast Tennessee are that much closer to the 2022 season opener – including the Sullivan East Patriots.

Playing in a tough 4A Region 1 last season for the first time, Sullivan East finished the campaign with a 1-9 record. Their only victory on the season came at home against Grainger.

“We use last year as fuel – right,” senior center Jack White said. “We’re out here, we’re practicing, we’re working towards our goal. Playoffs, right? So we’re out here just doing the best we can and getting better.”

“I mean, we’re out here, we’re all working out here every day, we’re all wanting to win,” senior wide receiver and linebacker Nathan Brown said. “Last year we didn’t do too hot, but like I said, it’s a whole new year and we’re ready to work.”

After a few weeks of preseason practice this summer, Patriots coaches and players can already feel a difference leading up to Week 1.

“It’s about competing every time we step on the field,” head coach J.C. Simmons explained. “Not just on Friday nights, but on Monday afternoons and it’s raining on you like it is now – everyday we step on the field is an opportunity to get better.”

With a slightly more experience group headed into 2022, everyone in the locker room knows that reaching their goal of a state playoff berth will come from consistency in every aspect of the game.

“Again – it’s competing everyday,” Simmons said. “I’m not trying to be better than anybody else in the season right now – I’m trying to be better than I was yesterday and I think the guys have really taken heart to that.”

For the players, they believe its been the offseason and early-season conditioning that will set them apart from the competition this year.

‘We’re out here running every day,” White said. “We’re going hard everyday against each other and we’re getting ready to just keep on hammering in there every single play.”

“I don’t think there’s any other team in Tennessee that can keep our conditioning with us,” Brown added.

For Simmons, however, the overall attitude of the team has given him cause to be energized by his team’s potential.

Our practices have been up – guys have good spirits about themselves,” he said. “They’re smiling, they’re happy to be here – and anytime you have that, where they’re excited to grab that door to come into the fieldhouse, I think that leads to positives.”

The Patriots will now open their season at home, despite originally being scheduled to travel to David Crockett. Kickoff in Bluff City is slated for 7 p.m. on Friday, August 19.