Three years removed from an 0-10 season, East Palestine is ready to make the step from competing to contending. The Bulldogs return 21 lettermen, including speedy QB Shane Peterson (1,100 rushing yards, 1,200 passing yards in 2008) to lead an offense that has 10 starters back. WR Austin Cope (532 yards, 7 TDs) leads a strong core of receivers, while RBs Matt Thomas and Ryan Dilworth return in the backfield behind a line that has four starters back - and a fifth, Jake Guzzetti, who was a part-time starter last year. Defensively, leading tackler Cope and disruptive DE Ben Gysin key a defense with nine starters back. EP also benefits from the return of Mike Salyers, who started last year until being injured in the first week. Crestview coach Paul Cusick has already said he thinks the Bulldogs are the favorites for the league title and Sharkey isn't shying away from the high expectations. All that potential needs to translate into wins, but there's reason for optimism in East Palestine this fall.