When senior Jalen Brown of the Westland High School football team transferred from Hilliard Darby during the summer, he was looking forward to playing the sport for the first time in three years.
Brown played junior varsity as a freshman at Marion-Franklin but couldn't play the past two seasons after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while playing AAU basketball during the summer of 2010.
Brown entered the Cougars' preseason workouts as a wide receiver and kick returner, but he became the starting quarterback when junior Myles Fowler broke the ring finger on his left hand during a scrimmage.
"After a couple days of camp in the summer, we knew we had a kid who was a varsity football player," coach Steve White said of Brown, who transferred to Pickerington Central before the start of his sophomore year but finished that school year at Darby. "We didn't know exactly where he would fit in at the time, but we knew we had a varsity player. We pretty much knew Jalen would be the backup (quarterback) at that point.
"He's exceeded our expectations. He has a burst to him."
Fowler has since returned to the lineup as a wide receiver and running back. He also now is serving as the backup quarterback.
Through six games, Brown had completed 52 of 117 passes for 730 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception and had rushed for 987 yards and seven touchdowns on 150 carries.
"I want to play my hardest and hopefully get some wins, that's the biggest thing," Brown said of the final three games of the regular season.
Westland was 1-5 overall and 0-3 in the OCC-Central Division before playing Olentangy Liberty on Oct. 5. The Cougars travel to Dublin Coffman for a league game on Friday, Oct. 12.
Coffman was 6-0 and 3-0 before playing Central Crossing on Oct. 5. The Shamrocks, who were ranked first in ThisWeek's Super 7 poll last week, defeated the Cougars 76-0 last season.
"Playing Hilliard Davidson, our kids came to play," White said. "Playing Dublin Coffman, playing Upper Arlington, we play those tough teams, so you definitely know where you are after you play, physically and score-wise."
Westland lost to Hilliard Davidson 35-14 in an OCC-Central game on Sept. 26. Trailing 7-0 in the second quarter, the Cougars had first-and-goal at the Davidson 1-yard line but failed to score as Brown threw an interception.
Trailing 28-0 in the third quarter, Brown connected with sophomore wide receiver Reggie Gilliam on a 20-yard touchdown pass to make it 28-6. Then, trailing 35-6 in the fourth quarter, Brown threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to fullback Nick Green and Fowler ran for the two-point conversion to close out the scoring.
"We want to win, but I believe we are getting better," White said. "I know that sounds good, but we need some wins."
Boys golf team finishes season at sectional
The boys golf team ended its season in a Division I sectional tournament Oct. 2 at Darby Creek.
The Cougars finished 13th (417) in the 14-team sectional behind champion Coffman (303). Rounding out the top five were Liberty (312), Westerville North (320), Davidson (323) and Lancaster (324).
The top four teams and top four individuals not on a qualifying team advanced to the district tournament Tuesday, Oct. 9, at Apple Valley.
Junior Steven Lewis led the Cougars with an 88, followed by junior Gage Church (92), sophomores Drew Barrow (117) and Curtis Dyer (120) and freshman Stephen Gorslene (128).
Senior Tarrell Dixon did not compete at sectional.
Marysville's Morgan Tarrant and Big Walnut's T.J. Cowans both shot a 78 to secure the final two individual district-qualifying spots.
"Steven and Gage played about right," coach Brad Kramer said. "The conditions were really wet and the course was playing really long, so anybody who hits the ball longer had an advantage and my players don't necessarily hit the ball long."
Westland went 0-28 in the four-round OCC-Central tournament to finish eighth, behind Upper Arlington (27-1), Coffman (24-4), Liberty (21-7), Thomas Worthington (13-15), Davidson (12-16), Marysville (11-17) and Central Crossing (4-24).
Kramer expects Church and Lewis to lead the team again next season. Church had a 44.9-stroke average for nine holes this season and Lewis averaged 46.9. Barrow (57.1), Dyer (58.3), Gorslene (59.1) and Dixon (64.3) were first-year players.
Dixon was the team's only senior.
"When I look at the numbers, we improved quite a bit," Kramer said. "My better players improved quite a bit in the second half of the season. One of our main goals was to have a lot of fun throughout the season and improve."