PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) – The North Bay Haven football team is returning a cohort of young talent as they begin their first season under Head Coach John Pate.

The Buccaneers will only have five seniors on the roster with 21 sophomores. Eight of those 10th graders will be in the starting rotation.

“Young football teams ride that roller coaster,” Pate said. “Good days we’re riding up and bad days the roller coaster is going down, and that’s what we’ve been throughout camp, we’ve ridden that roller coaster up and down.”

North Bay Haven returns dynamic playmaker, Lakota Johnson, who is coming off an impressive freshman season. Pate said he will play a dual threat role in the starting quarterback position.

“I’m going to try and groom him for three years,” Pate said. “He’s going to be a college athlete whether it’s baseball or football, he’ll play in college somewhere. So, we’re going to try and get him better doing our things and as he learns my package, we’ll expand it and he’ll do more things, then he’ll be able to start making checks and audible at the line of scrimmage.”

Johnson will be the key piece of the Bucs’ four-headed option attack, along with senior Colton Kirkland, and juniors Willy Hollie and Quantae Spencer.

With extra targets on the outside like senior wide receiver Logan Bolster, Pate said he expects opposing teams to struggle to prepare to guard them.

I’m excited about those four guys working together,” Pate said. “The great thing about an option, we don’t have to have a thousand-yard rusher, I’d be happy with four or five hundred-yard rushers when everybody is contributing. Some coaches will take your quarterback away, some coaches will take the pitch away and some coaches will take the dive away, so that way if all of them can touch the football, we’ll be harder to defend.”

The Buccaneers will have a favorable schedule to start the year before it becomes tougher with their district opponents.

The program has only had one winning season and playoff appearance, but pate said that could change this year.

“I think we’re on the precipice of maybe being football successful,” Pate said. “That was the idea, that’s why I took this challenge, I’m excited about it, I want us to be a consistently winning football team, and if we can figure out how to have a winning season this year, that will really bode well for us in the future, especially when I have 11 freshman and 21 sophomores.”

North Bay Have will open their preseason on Friday as they visit Port St. Joe, then will open their regular season on the road against Franklin County on Friday, August 26.