Under new leadership, the Cougars will attempt to match those accomplishments this fall.
First-year head coach Brian Smith, who replaces Jeff Jones, faces several challenges.
The biggest challenge is looking to replace 27 players lost to graduation.
Last season, the Cougars finished 4-1 in the OCC-Ohio, second only to Lancaster. Westland was 7-4 overall, its first winning season since 1994 when it was 6-4.
Sixth-seeded Westland dropped its first playoff game, 28-21 at No.3 seed Upper Arlington in a Division I regional quarterfinal. Westland will open the season Friday at Upper Arlington.
The key loss to graduation was quarterback Kasey Wendal, who will play football at Ashland University. Wendal rushed for a team-leading 1,943 yards and 23 touchdowns on 278 carries, and completed 118 of 213 passes for 1,571 yards and 17 scores. Wendal was named player of the year in the Central District and shared player of the year honors in with Lancaster running back Georgie Carpenter. He was also earned first-team All-Ohio.
Junior Jared South is the frontrunner to replace Wendal at quarterback.
Junior fullback Tyler Entingh finished second to Wendal in rushing with 432 yards on 122 carries last season. He scored three touchdowns. Seniors Andrew Moore and Chris Hamilton are also expected to see playing time in the backfield.
Versatile senior DeMarcus Jackson should split time in the backfield and at wide receiver.
“DeMarcus is going to be a guy that we need to try and find a way to get him the ball because he can make things happen,” said Smith, a former assistant at DeSales.
Smith called the lack of depth on the offensive line a concern. Junior center Matt Hoyt, who played predominantly on the defensive line last season, is expected to play both ways this fall.
“Matt has a real defensive mentality, but we need him on the offensive side of the ball,” Smith said.
Other candidates on the offensive line are senior Darion Williams (guard) and junior Scott Moscato (tackle).
“We need to step it up as a team,” Williams said. “Our seniors need to come together and work hard. We need to play smart and play hard, and hopefully we can get there.”
Senior Charlie Silcott, who played quarterback in the team’s opening four-way scrimmage on Aug. 11, should be a contributor at wide receiver. Westland lost its top eight receivers from last season to graduation.
Smith noted his team will utilize a 3-4 scheme on defense.
Hoyt and Williams should anchor the defensive line, with Hamilton and Entingh leading the charge at inside linebacker and Moscato and sophomore Randy Hall handling outside linebacker duties.
Jackson, a cornerback, should lead the charge in the secondary. Other contributors in the defensive backfield should be seniors Syvon Keys (cornerback), Mike Jarrell (safety), Georden Burton (safety) and Silcott (safety), and junior Sidney Tak (safety).
“It’s going to be hard for any team getting a new coach and getting a new offense and a new defense,” Jarrell said. “I think we’re on the right track. We’re learning stuff. We’re picking up as we go. It will take us a little while to get going, but once we get going I think we can do something because we have some good players.”
Sophomore Matt Walker, a member of the school’s soccer team, has joined the football team and will handle the kicking duties.
Jarrell will be the punter.
“I think we can put a pretty good 11 on the field,” Smith said. “The problem is going to be conditioning. We’ve been pushing conditioning pretty hard. I think our conditioning is unlike anything these guys have ever seen. That’s going to make or break our season. I don’t think we have the depth to really get deeper than when we’re going. We’re probably going to be playing 15 to 20 guys and they just have to be ready to go both ways without much of a drop-off. They just can’t get tired.”
Last season, the Cougars finished second in the division behind Lancaster (5-0) and ahead of Gahanna (3-2), Hilliard Darby (2-3), Groveport (1-4) and Newark (0-5).
Lancaster is again expected to vie for top honors in the division, with Hilliard Darby also providing a challenge.
“I’m trying to figure out what we have with our own team,” Smith said. “I do know that it’s a pretty competitive division. I know that a lot of the talk is about Lancaster and Darby. I know Newark has their years where they’re very good, Gahanna likewise. Groveport finds a year here or there where they’re competitive. I really don’t know where we fit into that picture.
“We’re not getting too hung up on wins and losses. We just want to make sure we’re doing things the right way and being competitive. The whole idea is just to compete week in and week out. Whether things go for the better or the worst, we just want to make sure that none of that stuff matters and we play the same way all the time.”