Heading into his third season at the helm of Massac County’s football program, Jason Roper has to feel a little “snake-bit.”

He inherited a program that was down on its luck … big time, and his first year was an exercise in starting over.

Last year — as in 2019 — the Patriots showed marked improvement as they broke a 25-game losing streak and were competitive in almost every game. That 2019 record of 1-8 could very well have been 3-6 or 4-5 with just a small break here and there.

Massac teams haven’t had a ton of speed over the last few years, but Roper actually likes the speed of this bunch. He also likes his depth so far. He had high praise for several of the kids who put in the extra time on conditioning this year.

Roper returns a potentially potent backfield with Jody Dumpprope and Nate Jackson in the harness.

Justice Willis has the upper hand at quarterback and has worked hard on improving his passing accuracy.

Roper likes what he sees in his receiver corps as well with Treshaun Bagby and Dathan English. A sleeper there might be Reed McCuan, a fleet-footed junior.

Size and depth on the line is always a plus, and Max Bremer, Daylon Jackson and Terry Janssen are back to bolster things “up front.”

Possibly the biggest X-factor for this year’s bunch is the time of year.

Practice has been difficult, to say the least, and with rain continuing almost daily, the football field will quickly resemble a freshly plowed corn field without some Herculean sod work. Roper gives a big edge to the teams with artificial turf going into the season.

“It is a challenge, probably one of the biggest we’ll face. With the Bermuda being dormant, the holes we tear up practicing aren’t going to repair themselves,” he said.

Let’s hope for an injury-free, or something close, season.

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