Columbus West High School football coach Mike Flusche certainly isn't out to take pleasure in anybody's pain, but the defeat of the South-Western City Schools' levy on Aug. 4 has given his program even more reason to be optimistic.

Columbus West High School football coach Mike Flusche certainly isn't out to take pleasure in anybody's pain, but the defeat of the South-Western City Schools' levy on Aug. 4 has given his program even more reason to be optimistic.

With no sports at Grove City, Westland, Central Crossing and Franklin Heights, the West roster has blossomed with transfers who Flusche anticipates will help diversify his pass-happy offense.

Last season the Cowboys finished 2-8 overall and 1-6 in the City League-South Division behind co-champions Marion-Franklin and Eastmoor (6-1).

"The nice thing about it is that most of the guys worked out with me all summer as they waited to see if the levy was going to pass," said Flusche, whose team opens Friday at first-year school Hilliard Bradley. "These guys grew up in the neighborhood and they played little league football together, so they're no strangers."

In the preseason, West looked to gain as many as 10-12 players from Franklin Heights and Westland and that boosted the Cowboys' roster to nearly 50.

The additions included starting running backs from Franklin Heights, senior Jonathan Parks, and Westland, Reggie Mclain. Both will join junior Dejaun Tannihill in the backfield.

It's put a smile on quarterback Eric Stewart's face. The senior threw for more than 2,500 yards last season and nearly that much as a sophomore, but now opposing defenses will have to respect the run.

"Last year teams used to blitz us all the time because we didn't have a running game," Stewart said. "This year, we should be able to slow that down and do some play-action."

The Cowboys also should be more seasoned up front with Franklin Heights transfer Jimmy Ross (6-1, 240), a junior who can help on both sides of the ball. Senior Brandon Green (5-10, 195) is back as the returning starter at center as is senior tackle Brandon Brownlee (5-10, 250).

Flusche had expected his line to be thin without the new faces.

"The biggest issue has always been linemen around here," he said. "We have skilled athletes, but we haven't had lines that can sustain anything. But I think our starting five will be better than any of the last three years."

Stewart's main targets also have returned in senior Quinton Graham and juniors Garyett Abfalter-Scott and Nate Powell.

"We certainly have more athletes around," Stewart said. "With a bigger roster, it should also cut down on guys going both ways. Last year, we had some close games, but it seemed like we would get tired."

The Cowboys expect to be better at stopping opponents as well, after allowing nearly 39 points per game a year ago.

The defense returns five starters in seniors Dominic Troutman (DB) and Brownlee (DL) and juniors Abfalter-Scott (DB), Daga Tahir (LB) and Cortez Moon (DT; 5-11, 250). Westland transfer, senior Josh Mechling (6-2, 250), is expected to play tackle in a new 4-3 scheme.

"I think we're a group that's ready to play as a team," Stewart said. "I think last year we were more worried about ourselves."