COAL CITY, WV (WVNS) — The Independence Patriots saw their perfect season slip through their fingers in 2021 in Wheeling.

But from the second they heard the final buzzer, they set their hearts and minds to the season ahead.

“We didn’t swallow much of our pride. We kind of took it more to the heart than the chin. But I think I think we learned that it’s more than it’s more than football, really. It’s more than heart. But I think I think going to Wheeling and feeling that and feeling the pain after the game, I think we’ll be a lot better,” said Senior running back Judah Price.

For Price and the rest of the returning Patriots, they believe with full hearts and clear eyes looking forward that they have what it takes to finish what they started last year.

But with losing star players Atticus Goodson and Logan Phalin to graduation, many have doubts they can regroup and return to Wheeling in 2022.

“We’re going to find a way to come up with 5,000 yards of offense. You know, that’s not going to be real easy, but, you know, we got a lot of guys back and hopefully, we can find, you know, a few kids that can step up and get us some yardage,” said John Lilly, head coach of the Patriots.

“I mean, people are going to come after us now since we made the state championship, but I think we’re ready to handle it. To be honest, I think we’re ready and know what to do and get it done. I think people are counting us out a lot, really,” said Price.

Two former wideouts who are familiar with both positions will try and carry the momentum built last season. Junior Quarterback Trey Bowers will take the stage under center after learning from Phalin for the last two years.

“It’s really surreal. I’m just trying to get back to the state championship That’s all. I mean, I’ve been working day in and out since last December. I’ve just been ready for this day and ready for August, and I’m just ready for the season,” said Bowers.

Both Bowers and Price are excited by the chemistry they can create out in the backfield. With Cyrus “Hollywood” Goodson out wide, the trio is ready to show the state how hard it can be to shut them down.

“I think would be just as good if not better. I’m really excited to let everybody show, let everybody see what’s up plus I want to show people we can win without my brother,” said Goodson, a senior wide receiver and defensive back.

While the Patriots want to end in Wheeling, Lilly sees the return as just a small part of the larger conversation he wants to be a part of.

“Our goal here is to be consistent. We want to be mentioned in the same name as, you know, Fairmont and Bluefield. It’s those guys. And we got to be consistent with that. We can’t have one big year. We had to put it all together and have multiple years in a row and that’s a big challenge for us. And a goal of our program is to get ourselves consistent like those guys are,” said Lilly.