Westland High School football coach Steve White believes getting out to a good start this season is paramount for his team.
The Cougars, who open Friday, Aug. 30, at Eastmoor Academy, have won their opener the past two seasons, defeating the Columbus Crusaders 32-27 last year and Linden-McKinley 23-8 in 2011.
However, Westland lost its final nine games both seasons.
"You get the momentum to start the season and the kids have been working hard since December and they can see some benefit from all that hard work," White said of winning the opener.
The matchup with Eastmoor will mark the varsity debut of sophomore quarterback D'Kahri Scott, who replaces 2013 graduate Jalen Brown.
"He's looking alright," White said of Scott after a scrimmage against Delaware on Aug. 17. "He did a lot of good things (in the scrimmage) and then made a lot of sophomore mistakes, which the first time in varsity competition I expected him to have a little bit of trouble adjusting to the speed of the varsity level."
Senior fullbacks Nick Green and Alex Pridemore and junior halfback Michael Llausas are expected to be the primary running backs. Green rushed for 266 yards and three touchdowns on 50 carries last season.
Expected to lead Westland's base 50 defense are Green and Pridemore at linebacker and senior Dorrion Newton (6-foot-1, 350 pounds) on the line.
Eastmoor, which finished 6-4 a year ago and is a member of the City League-South Division, will employ a spread offense this season after being a power-running team most of the time under 11th-year coach Jim Miranda.
Jamal Hughes, Tyler Simmons and Brandon Stepter are competing to replace 2013 graduate Davion Barrow as the starting quarterback. Barrow threw for more than 1,000 yards last season.
Westland and Eastmoor last met in 2006, with the Cougars winning 35-28. Westland leads the series 5-1. The Cougars won the matchup in 1997, but later had to forfeit the contest because of three ineligible players.
"Eastmoor is a solid program," White said. "(Miranda) has been there for a long time. They've had a lot of success. They run a solid 4-3 defense and they run a nice open offense and they have a lot of size and we don't have a lot of size this year like we did last year, so that is definitely a concern. Our guys will be ready for the challenge."