BLUFF CITY — With a rookie coach and a quarterback battle at hand, Sullivan East won’t be relying on veteran experience for its two most important leadership positions.

But first-year head coach J.C. Simmons said he likes the competition he’s seeing behind center.

“We have two guys duking it out right now,” Simmons said. “I am really happy with their progress as far as what we are able to do. They have picked up on what is going on.”

The Patriots must replace a three-year starter as Dylan White graduated.

“Anytime you replace a guy who has been playing a long time, it’s difficult,” Simmons said. “But we have two seniors who are going after it.”

Seth Dalton and Ethan Bradford will be locked in a battle when practice is scheduled to begin next week. Dalton has an edge experience-wise, as he was a backup quarterback last season.

“Seth is a guy who has been working his tail off every day,” said Simmons. “He has been trying to get himself in a better position by working like crazy. From a work ethic standpoint, he has done a tremendous job. He has shown up every day and has improved leaps and bounds.”

Meanwhile, Bradford joined the football program after playing a key role on the Patriots’ basketball team last season.

“Ethan has been a basketball guy, but decided to come out for football,” Simmons said. “As far as leadership, he has turned into a guy who is really looking to help the team. His natural athletic ability has shown up as well.”

Simmons said both players are battling and competing.

“Right now we don’t have a quarterback,” he said. “We have two guys who are fighting for it. They both bring a lot to the table, and I’m excited to see what comes from it.”

It could even come down to a two-quarterback system.

“I will do whatever is best for the team,” Simmons said.

“If one guy emerges, we will go with that. Or we could use both of them.”

East is scheduled to open its season Aug. 21 with a home game against Johnson County.