Westland High School football coach Steve White believes his team is on the verge of a turnaround despite the fact that the Cougars have not had a winning season since 2006 and have finished 1-9 overall and 0-7 in the OCC-Central Division in his first two seasons leading the program.
The Cougars closed the season with a 34-14 loss to Central Crossing 34-14 on Oct. 26. Their only win came against the Columbus Crusaders, 32-27 in their opener Aug. 24. They lost their final nine games.
"This year we were more competitive in every game," said White, whose team was outscored 478-158 this season. "Going to the spread offense really helped us to open the field, allowing us to move the football better. With close to 3,000 (2,903) yards of offense, we moved the ball, but we have to be in position to win games. Defensively, we have to stop giving up the big play. We have to believe that we can win and that is what we are working toward."
Westland has lost 34 consecutive league games, with its last win coming against Hilliard Darby, 46-29 in OCC-Ohio play on Oct. 20, 2006. That season, the Cougars qualified for the Division I, Region 3 playoffs, losing to Upper Arlington 28-21 in the first round to finish 7-4.
Westland placed eighth in the OCC-Central this season, behind co-champions Dublin Coffman (6-1) and Hilliard Davidson (6-1) as well as Olentangy Liberty (5-2), UA (5-2), Marysville (3-4), Thomas Worthington (2-5) and Central Crossing (1-6).
Junior Myles Fowler entered the preseason as the starting quarterback, but he broke the ring finger on his non-throwing hand during a scrimmage and missed the first four games.
Fowler returned to action in a 50-19 loss to Thomas on Sept. 22 and saw playing time at quarterback, running back and wide receiver over the final six games.
Senior Jalen Brown replaced Fowler under center and improved throughout the season, according to White.
Brown rushed for 1,372 yards and eight touchdowns on 227 carries and completed 65 of 164 passes for 848 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions. He was named first-team all-league.
Fowler, who made honorable mention all-league, rushed for 281 yards and three touchdowns on 61 carries and completed 16 of 36 passes for 144 yards. He scored on a 99-yard run against Central Crossing.
White expects Fowler to be the starting quarterback next season.
Senior lineman Cory Beasy and senior linebacker Brian Jackson were second-team all-league. Senior Korey Browning (TE/LB/K/P) led the team in receptions with 37 for 411 yards and was special mention all-league.
Junior fullback Nick Green rushed for 266 yards and three touchdowns on 50 carries and senior tailback Mike Jackson ran for 200 yards on 53 carries.
"This has been a real solid class for us," White said of his 22 seniors.
"They've worked hard in the weight room and during summer conditioning."
Among the players expected to return are Fowler, Green, juniors Joey Gutzman (LB), Dorrion Newton (OL/DL) and Alex Pridemore (RB/LB) and sophomores Tevon Drake (OL/DL), Reggie Gilliam (WR/LB) and Michael Llausas (RB/LB).
Girls volleyball team 'made huge strides'
The girls volleyball team finished 6-16 overall and 2-12 in the OCC-Central under coach Eric Hughes, who completed his first season leading the program after serving as junior varsity coach in 2011.
The Cougars lost to Groveport 25-20, 25-16, 25-17 in the first round of the Division I district tournament Oct. 15.
Westland finished seventh in the OCC-Central, behind Coffman (14-0), Liberty (12-2), Davidson (10-4), Thomas (8-6), UA (6-8) and Marysville (3-11) and ahead of Central Crossing (1-13).
The Cougars split their two matches with Central Crossing, defeating the Comets 25-17, 25-21, 25-23 on Sept. 18 and losing 24-26, 14-25, 25-9, 26-24, 16-14 on Oct. 11. Their other league win came against Marysville, 19-25, 25-22, 25-22, 26-24 on Sept. 20.
Westland loses six seniors, including outside hitter Bianca Anderson, who was named second-team all-league. Junior setter Erika Moore was honorable mention all-league.
In addition to Moore, expected to return are junior Maria Turner (libero), sophomores Kyleigh Jackson (middle blocker), Abigail McCormick (middle blocker) and Taylor Mitchell (right-side hitter), and freshman Jenna Panning (outside hitter).
"Everyone in the program made huge strides this year, not only during the offseason but during the season, also," Hughes said. "We improved our (overall) record from last year (3-19) and I believe we will continue to do so in the future."