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."
Boys soccer team rallies to win opener
The boys soccer team rallied to defeat host Hamilton Township 3-2 on Aug. 17 in its season opener.
The Cougars trailed 2-0 in the second half before getting goals from senior midfielders Hussein Karshe and Eduardo Santiago and sophomore forward Juan Rios, who scored the winning goal with 2 minutes, 45 seconds remaining.
Senior goalkeeper Jonathan Olvera had eight saves.
"That was a good win and it was a come-from-behind win, so it showed a little character," coach Dan Heckler said. "That was a tough one. It was a bruiser. That is a confidence builder."
Olvera is in his first season as the starting goalie. He has replaced 2013 graduate Shawn Draper, who totaled 118 saves in 17 games last season and was named first-team OCC-Central Division and third-team all-district in Division I.
Senior midfielder Bachir Bah, who scored four goals and was second-team all-league last season, is among the key returnees.
Other returnees are seniors Jonah Cortes (defender) and Kris Davies (defender) and juniors Jose Garcia (midfielder), Luke Klatt (defender) and Emmanuel Reyes (defender).
Santiago and Reyes are co-captains.
Also on the team are seniors Jesus Cerda (goalie), Joe Crago (defender), Hector Fernandez (defender), Tariq Hadi (midfielder) and Roberto Montoya (defender), juniors Ahmed Barood (midfielder), Ruben Garcia (defender), Jose Santiago (defender) and Van Thang (midfielder/forward) and sophomores Mohamed Abubakar (midfielder), Tyler Hoffman (midfielder), Marco Santiago (midfielder) and Wyatt Sheline (defender).
"We have a good number of varsity and (junior varsity) returning players and these guys are picking up what they learned last year and they're being thrown right back into the game and training up the new players fast," Heckler said.
Westland, which went 1-5-1 in the OCC-Central last season to place seventh, lost nine players from a year ago to graduation, including Draper and midfielder Jack Fischer, who scored five goals and was honorable mention all-league last season.
"We lost a lot of experience from last year all over the field," Heckler said.
Girls soccer team
falls in opener
The girls soccer team opened with a 4-2 loss to visiting Groveport 4-2 on Aug. 20.
Sophomore defender/midfielder Camryn Moreno scored both goals for Westland, which finished 2-11-2 overall and tied Central Crossing for seventh in the OCC-Central at 0-6-1 last season.
"The girls didn't give up," coach Pat Ellis said. "They played the whole time. They're just trying to find their way. It's a young group. It's early in the season. For a lot of them, it (was) their first varsity high school match ever."
Moreno, seniors Devine Davis (midfielder/defender) and Rachelle Marcum (midfielder) and junior Sarah Krepps (midfielder) are co-captains. Marcum was honorable mention all-league last season.
Other returnees are senior Danielle Miller (midfielder) and juniors Kate Antonyuk (midfielder), Natalie Rock (defender) and Aleeah Ruthers (defender).
Rounding out the roster are senior Nicole Weber (defen-der/midfielder), junior Sarah Demana (midfielder/forward), sophomores Mariama Bah (defender), Jasmin Campos (defender/midfielder), Eimy Cordova (defender/midfielder), Destinee Long (defender), Nathalie Moeum (forward/midfielder), Ali Orozco-Bueno (midfielder) and Marisol Perez-Garcia (forward) and freshmen Shayan Brown (goalie), Chayla Davis (midfielder) and Katie Guy (forward/midfielder).
Keila Herrera, a midfielder who led the team in scoring a year ago with 13 goals and was named first-team all-league and second-team all-district in Division I, did not return for her senior season. She also saw playing time as a goalie last season, finishing with 64 saves.
"You just have to deal with what the cards give you," Ellis said of Herrera not returning.