SNEADS, Fla. (WMBB) – The Sneads football team is returning some key pieces from injury, eying a fifth consecutive season with a trip to the playoffs.

The Pirates made it all the way to the Class 1A State Semifinals in 2020 and had a first-round exit in regionals last season. Head Coach Bill Thomas said those two rosters were not far off in talent.

“Three guys missed games the whole season from injury, we went to the final four,” Thomas said. “Then last year, we had double that by week three. That’s just sometimes your lucky, sometimes you’re not. I think if you’re ever going to win in all you’re going to have to be lucky.”

Sneads will return rising junior running back Jason Patterson, who was on pace for a record-breaking sophomore campaign before breaking his foot and ending his season in week three.

In two and a half games in 2021, Patterson rushed for 515 yards and 8 touchdowns on only 30 total carries.

“I haven’t been on the field in about 300-something days,” Patterson said. “I haven’t touched the field so I just want to get on the field and just see how that first touchdown is going to feel. I’m faster now, I ran track this year, I’m lighter but I’m stronger, so I feel like I’m going to be way more fit. What y’all saw last year, y’all better get ready.”

With a massive front line to protect them, the Pirates have been known to run an offense based entirely around dual-threat athletes taking snaps from under center.

Coach Thomas said the players who will take the most snaps are Patterson, Aven Tyus and Dalton Brown.

“They both take just as many reps passing the football, and this year we’ve really worked three,” Thomas said. “We have worked one kid just with the wildcat because we lost two quarterbacks in the same game, just in the first half of the game last year. Who ever does that? So, if it happens to you once, shame on them, if it happens to you twice shame on you.”

Senior linebacker Cooper Alexander said last season’s injuries may have been a blessing in disguise as it allowed for underclassmen to gain more on-field experience.

“We had a small senior class last year so we all had to step up at an early stage,” Alexander said. “So, that’s helped us a lot with depth and older guys coming in with experience.”

Since 2018, Sneads has tallied 33 wins and 11 losses. But as September approaches, Coach Thomas said their slate is clean once again.

“Last year’s seniors graduated and in their four years of high school, they never won less than eight games,” Thomas said. “I told these seniors, that don’t mean anything for you. You can either be the senior class that went three years and never won less than eight games or you can be the senior class that continued it on.”

The Pirates will open their regular season at home as they host Cottondale on Friday, August 26.