SULPHUR, Okla. (KTEN) - 2022 was the not the season the Sulphur Bulldogs were expecting.

"We had to overcome a lot of things that kids don't have to go through in a football season, so our kids are ready for this season," head coach Corey Cole said.

Longtime Sulphur head coach Jim Dixon passed away in the middle of the season last September. This year will be the first season in 49 years without Dixon leading the Bulldogs, but his legacy will live on off the field.

"Everyone remembers him," Sulphur running back and linebacker Jeremiah Knowles said. "Everybody around Oklahoma knows him. You hear Sulphur, that's who you think of, Coach Dixon."

And on it as well.

"His blueprint is here forever and as long as I'm around, it's who we are," Cole said. "We’re going to be tough, physical, we’re going to play the game the right way, we’re going to run the football, we're going to stop the run and that's what had been set a long time ago.”

But running is not all the Bulldogs will do this year.

“We’re including a lot more pass game," Knowles said. "We got a lot faster kids. I think we’re getting mentally smarter."

With 10 returning starters offensively, including star receiver Brytan Gaddy, the Bulldogs were already set to be an explosive unit. And now they’ve added three-star receiver DaMontre Patterson from Ada.

“He’s going to allow some of our other playmakers who are really explosive to become better playmakers too," Cole said.  "We’re going to be able to put a good cast around him and that’s going to be really special.”

But talent alone won’t get you a playoff ticket from 3A District II.

“There's no days off," Cole said. "You can’t take a weight roomm day off. You can't take a film session off, you can't take a steady session off. Every week you better be ready to go. It’s as tough a district as there is in the state of Oklahoma."

And after missing the playoffs a year ago, Sulphur does not want to look back on 2023 with any regrets.

“Leave everything on the field no matter what: good, bad, or indifferent," Sulphur guard and defensive end Billy Anderson said. "You get out there and give it everything you’ve got no matter what happens. And the goal for us? Gold ball."

Sulphur will begin its season with a tough test as defending 2A state champion Washington comes to town on September 1.