Unleash the East: Young Patriots look to maintain winning tradition

Dave Ongie • Updated Aug 9, 2017 at 7:50 PM

Sullivan East football coach Mike Locke fondly remembers last year’s nine-win team as an apex predator that would feed off of momentum like a shark swarming to blood in the water.

“I can go back to almost every game last year, and it boils down to we made a play on special teams or we made a big play at a certain time, and we were a team that was able to smell blood in the water and jump on that momentum,” he said.

With a new season approaching, there is plenty of uncertainty as to how good the Patriots can be with just five seniors on the roster. Quarterback Aaron Frye has moved on, as have Gunner Griffith and a host of other seniors who helped East rack up a school-recored 24 wins in a three-year span.

There is no shortage of question marks, but Locke knows one thing for sure – this year’s team will be a whole different animal than the 2016 Patriots.

“Every team has its own identity,” he said. “I think we have a good chemistry. They work well together. They push each other. I certainly think the like each other. I’m interested to see what they do.”

Indeed, there is plenty of curiousity and only a hint of worry in Locke’s voice as he talks about the upcoming 2017 season. He’s excited about the opportunity to watch the next generation of East football stars to make their mark under the lights each Friday night.

“I love seeing transformations in athletes,” Locke said. “I love seeing them become more than they think they can become. What I’ve always felt like is that when we ask more of a kid, they rise to give us more. They release their mutant genes, if you will, under stress, and they become more. And that’s an exciting thing to see those guys transform.”

Dylan White will be under the brightest spotlight when he replaces Frye under center this season. Locke said that Frye, a three-year starter, knew exactly which play to run in every situation last year. Now White, a sophomore, will be heading into uncharted territory when he takes his first varsity snaps under center.

Locke said he’s happy with White’s performance, but offensively, the Patriots will need to get back to basics in order to succeed.

“The field is 10 yards long,” Locke quipped. “Get 3-and-a-half yards (each play) and stay on schedule.”

Locke believes the young guys who will be called upon this season learned a lot from the large senior class who carried most of the load last season. He believes those lessons gave this year’s Patriots squad a sense of what needs to be done in order to keep the program at a high level.

Now it’s their turn to roll up their sleeves, seize the opportunity before them and leave their own mark.

“We’ve talked all offseason about how this is a journey of discovery, discovering that you can be more than you’ve been, play a bigger role than you’ve played,” Locke said. “We’ve stressed to them about transformation.

“Now it’s time for them to step up. It’s their time to rise up. I think they’ll meet the challenge.”

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