Sulphur head coach Jim Dixon has always preached hard work and getting better.

The philosophy is no different this year, but there's a good chance the results will be.

The Bulldogs return around 16 starters from last year and after back-to-back seasons at 4-6, things seem to be looking up for Sulphur.

Dixon's squad began practice Tuesday of last week after being flooded out on Monday. So far, he's pleased with what he's seen.

"Practice has been really good," Dixon said. "They've done anoutstanding job all summer, we had a good spring practice and they did an excellent job throughout the off-season."

Dixon and the Bulldogs return all but three starters on offense, including the majority of the backfield and at the receiver positions, which includes senior quarterback Ryan Rackley and All-Ardmoreite Super Team junior running back Nate Johnson.

"Offensively, we've got a lot of weapons coming back," Dixon said. "We've got about eight or nine back on offense. I think we have a chance to score a lot of points. We came along way towards the end of last year."

However, Dixon says the key will be in the trenches.

"We've got three starters back on the offensive line, so we'll have to find the other two, but there's a lot of kids that can play," Dixon said. "They work really hard and I believe they can come through for us."

On defense, it's much of the same story. The Bulldogs return plenty of players and experience, including senior linebacker Tanner Watson and senior defensive end Wyatt Jones, who both missed all of last year due to injuries.

"Defensively, we got better and better as the year went on last year," Dixon said. "Like on offense, we've got about eight starters back on defense, including (Tanner) Watson and (Wyatt) Jones, who were both hurt last year."

Overall, Dixon and his bunch are excited about getting back to football and to see what the fall holds.

"We're way ahead of where we were at this time, last year," Dixon said. "All of our kids have gotten bigger, stronger and quicker, and they're getting tougher, too. We've got a lot of leadership out here, which is huge."

But for right now, Dixon and the 'Dogs are staying focused on what's worked for over 30 years.

"I'm optimistic," Dixon said. "We've just got to keep getting better and stay healthy."

Follow Carter on Twitter: @wcarterARD