Although his team faces a monumental challenge competing in the OCC-Central Division, Westland High School third-year football coach Brian Smith is just happy his team is back on the field.

Although his team faces a monumental challenge competing in the OCC-Central Division, Westland High School third-year football coach Brian Smith is just happy his team is back on the field.

The four football programs in the South-Western Schools District saw their seasons wiped out last year after voters rejected an operational levy in August. Extra-curricular activities were reinstated in November after voters approved a levy.

"What a lot of people don't see is the behind-the-scenes preparation," Smith said. "We spent nine months last year preparing with faith in the voters that in August the levy would get passed. You have to prepare, but to have that letdown and then in November to get right back at it again and go another nine months. We've pretty much been at this for two years.

"It kind of gets stale after awhile and you're ready just to get going, so we're excited."

One impact is evident in the Cougars' inexperience, as seniors Exodus King and Reggie McClain, and junior Zach Hall are the only three returning players who have earned letters.

"We're going to start seven to eight guys on each side of the ball who haven't played high school football, so it's going to be a challenge," Smith said.

The Cougars, who finished 1-9 in 2008, open Friday at home against Cleveland John Marshall High School.

They also have non-league games at home against Linden-McKinley (Sept. 3) and Toledo Scott (Sept. 10).

Westland begins OCC-Central action against defending Division I state champion Hilliard Davidson on Sept. 17.

After running an option offense two years ago, Smith has decided to take a new approach in 2010.

"We're going to try to simplify things offensively," he said. "We're going to really scale back on what we're asking of our kids."

Sophomore Korey Browning (6-foot-1, 167 pounds), a transfer from Lancaster, is the front-runner to start at quarterback.

"Korey didn't get here until July, but right away he showed himself as a natural leader and he has pretty good athletic ability for what we're going to ask of our quarterbacks," Smith said.

McClain (5-10, 191), who played at Columbus West last season, will be the fullback.

Smith added that junior Chris Butcher (6-1, 172) should be a key contributor at wide receiver along with senior Devin Norris (5-11, 150), who also will back up Browning at quarterback.

King (5-11, 202) will anchor the offensive line at guard.

"I like my teammates a lot," King said. "We've been together for a while. If I have to play both ways, punt, kick off, kickoff return, I'll do it."

Junior Reyes (5-11, 215), a junior, is the other starting guard, and sophomore Kyle Maxwell (6-0, 247) will play center.

Smith said five players are in the mix for the two tackle positions.

With a limited roster, Smith said some players will have to play both ways.

The team's 4-3 base defense will include Lenhart and King at defensive end, sophomore Jawuan Reynolds (6-0, 305) at nose guard and Hall (6-0, 237) at defensive tackle.

Leading candidates to play linebacker are McClain, senior Travell Wright (5-11, 171) and junior Brady Willis (5-9, 170).

The secondary should feature Norris at free safety, sophomore Eric Byers (5-7, 147) at strong safety, and senior Bobby Faught (5-6, 132) and sophomore Steven Gonzalez (6-2, 186) at the corners.

"Our numbers are down," Smith said. "We probably have 20 fewer kids than we have on average. That can definitely present some challenges and that can be a bad thing, but in a way it's a blessing in disguise because the kids we have we really believe they're in it.

"If you've been through everything they've been through and jumped through all those hoops, they're pretty dedicated kids."

Many consider the OCC-Central the toughest division in the conference. Besides Davidson, Westland plays perennial powers Dublin Coffman, Upper Arlington and Worthington Kilbourne.

"We're really fighting an uphill battle before we ever get started, but it is what is," Smith said.

"We just have to do our best with it and try to navigate through it."