“We’re trying to be the best East football team we can be,” he said. “If that means we can beat teams like Elizabethton and Greeneville on Friday night, yay.
“But more importantly, are we getting the most out of our kids and are they giving us the most for Patriot Nation on Friday night? That’s what it’s all about.”
The Patriots plan to ride the arm and legs of third-year starter Dylan White at quarterback.
“One of the things that helps us in practice is he knows what we want to do before we tell him,” Locke said. “He knows the offense and has a leadership role. He has good arm strength, and I think if we give him some time he will make good decisions and put us in the right spot.”
Protecting White is an offensive line that Locke said has potential.
“We don’t have the size we had last year, but we’ve made up for it in quickness,” he said. “We have to be good technicians. I think we have the potential to be very good up front.”
On the left side are tackle Jett Jones and guard Cameron Tolbert. Dylan Lopez is at center, and tackle Nate Hunter and guard Nicholas Sakellar are on the right side. Owen Laprade is battling with Sakellar for that spot. Zechariah Steinmann is also in the mix.
Clayton Ivester and Chet Bryant handle the tight end duties.
Hoping to benefit from that line are running backs like Mason Hayworth, Hunter Brown and Dustyn Knittel. Fullback Eric Hare is also in the mix along with Thor Poe.
“Mason has really good speed in the open field,” Locke said. “Knittel has been a real surprise for us. And when Poe learns to run behind his pads, he will be a force to be reckoned with.”
Locke said he has a good crop of veteran receivers, among them Lake Mullins, Blake Scher, Seth Chafin and Tanner McCracken.
“We have some guys we can throw it to,” the coach said.
Hunter Brown also is in that mix either catching passes out of the backfield or from a slot receiver position.
Defensively, East relies on Ivester, Nate Hunter, Steinmann and Jones on the front line. Poe, Bryant and Sakellar also help.
Hare heads the inside linebacker group aided by Tolbert, Laprade, Eli Richardson and Mason Arrington. On the outside are Knittel and Chafin along with Arrington. White may also see a few snaps defensively.
Brown, Hayworth, Mullins and Scher lock down the secondary.
“They will get the lion’s share of the load,” Locke said.
Martin Hamelryck handles most of the placekicking duties with White and Ivester at punter.
Aug. 23 at Johnson County
Sept. 6 Elizabethton
Sept. 13 at Volunteer
Sept. 20 Union County
Sept. 27 Unicoi County
Oct. 4 at Grainger
Oct. 11 Sullivan Central
Oct. 18 at Sullivan South
Oct. 25 Sullivan North
Nov. 1 Greeneville