With just five seniors on his team, Westland High School football coach Steve White already is looking forward to 2014.
That's not to say that he isn't disappointed with the program's progress.
The Cougars finished 1-9 overall and 0-7 in the OCC-Central Division this season and are 3-27 overall and 0-21 in the league during his three-year tenure.
Westland has lost 41 consecutive league games, with its last win coming against Hilliard Darby, 46-29 in 2006. That season marks the last time the Cougars finished with a winning record (7-4) and qualified for the playoffs.
"Obviously, we wanted to have more success," said White, whose team's win came against Columbus East, 28-12 on Sept. 13. "We wanted to win an OCC game. We haven't done that for too long around here. We need to get an OCC win and we weren't able to do that.
"We think we have a good basis for next year to start from."
Westland finished eighth in the OCC-Central, behind Hilliard Davidson (7-0), Dublin Coffman (6-1), Marysville (4-3), Olentangy Liberty (4-3), Upper Arlington (4-3), Thomas Worthington (2-5) and Central Crossing (1-6).
The Cougars lost their first six league games by an average margin of 56.7 points but were much more competitive in their regular-season finale Nov. 1, losing 32-14 at Central Crossing.
Westland trailed 19-0 at halftime, but outscored the Comets 14-13 in the second half.
"I'm glad that we do play Central Crossing last because it is always competitive and very emotional," senior running back and linebacker Nick Green said. "It didn't matter what our records were, it was going to be close against Central Crossing. It's always nice to have the last game (be) competitive, at least."
The Cougars had 355 total yards against Central Crossing, with sophomore fullback Matt Mickens rushing for 151 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries and sophomore quarterback Clay Carrel running for 115 yards and a score on 25 carries.
"We were able to run the ball very effectively against them," White said.
Mickens played in three games, rushing for 253 yards and two touchdowns on 39 carries.
Carrel emerged as the starting quarterback midway through the season, rushing for 276 yards and two touchdowns on 95 carries and completing 19 of 42 passes for 134 yards with an interception, and was named honorable mention all-league.
Junior wide receiver Reggie Gilliam finished with 21 catches for 303 yards and three touchdowns and junior wide receiver Dominick Thomas had 23 receptions for 249 yards and a touchdown.
Sophomore D'Kahri Scott, who began the season at quarterback, rushed for 256 yards and three touchdowns on 64 carries.
"We grew toward the end of the season," said Green, who made first-team all-league. "The middle was a little rough, but we came together at the end. It gets very frustrating, especially since there weren't many seniors at all. The team was just really young, so it was frustrating."
Senior linebacker Alex Pridemore and junior tight end and linebacker John Gebhardt were second-team all-league and Gilliam was special mention all-league.
White expects to return six players who started or saw significant playing time on the offensive line in juniors Tevon Drake, Jonathan Justice, Andrew Lewallen and Adam Rose and sophomores Justin Hurley and Manny Lagunas.
White credited the senior class for their contributions to the program.
"Those kids are survivors. They're tough kids," he said. "They have not had as much success as they would have liked in high school in football, but they came back and came to play, worked hard and gave us all they had, and that's really all you can ask for out of kids."
Volleyball coach earns league honor
The girls volleyball team finished 9-14 overall and placed sixth in the OCC-Central at 5-9, behind Coffman (14-0), Davidson (12-2), Liberty (10-4), Marysville (7-7) and Thomas (6-8) and ahead of Central Crossing (1-13) and UA (1-13).
Seeded 31st in the Division I district tournament, the Cougars lost to fourth-seeded Grove City 25-20, 25-17, 25-15 in the second round Oct. 16 after having a first-round bye.
Eric Hughes, who completed his second season leading the program, was named OCC-Central Coach of the Year.
"It is awesome to be recognized for the work being done at Westland," Hughes said. "However, it would not have been possible without my awesome coaching staff and the players willing to put in the time and effort."
Sophomore outside hitter Jenna Panning had 310 digs, 246 kills, 41 blocks and 40 aces and was named first-team all-league, and junior middle blocker Kyleigh Jackson had 152 kills, 113 blocks and 22 aces and was second-team all-league.
Senior libero Maria Turner had 311 digs and 26 aces and was special mention all-league and senior setter Erika Moore had 565 assists, 179 digs and 22 aces and was honorable mention all-league.
Westland loses four seniors in Moore, Turner and defensive specialists Yasmeenah Estep and Kaitlyn Willming.
In addition to Jackson and Panning, expected to return are juniors Erin Bower (defensive specialist), Colleen Guffey (defensive specialist), Jackie Harris (middle blocker), Abigail McCormick (outside hitter) and Taylor Mitchell (outside hitter).
"I like the direction we're heading in," Hughes said. "Ever since I've been here, we've been progressively winning more games. This year, we lost 14 games by three points or (two), so next year those should be turning into wins."
Cross country coach happy with progress
Cross country coach Josh Barkeloo is pleased with the progress his teams made this season.
"I felt like we turned a corner as a (program) this season," he said. "The girls team produced its best season in several years and for the boys squad to have representation at the regional championship was a bonus. Throughout the season, area coaches would stop and tell me how much they have seen our program improve and how respectful our athletes are in the field of competition. Things are looking up for Westland cross country and people are noticing."
Junior Seth Farmer led the boys team and was the program's lone qualifier for the Division I regional meet Oct. 26 at Pickerington North, where he finished 89th (17 minutes, 48.09 seconds) of 122 runners.
The top 16 individuals advanced to state Nov. 2 at National Trail Raceway.
The boys team finished 13th (356) in the district 2 meet Oct. 19 at Watkins Memorial behind champion Dublin Jerome (23) as 14 teams scored, with Farmer placing sixth (16:27.93) of 102 runners.
The top five teams and top 20 individuals in district 2 advanced to regional.
Also competing at district were juniors Bryce Long (79th, 19:37.05), Andrew Choate (87th, 20:09.63) and Andrew Ritchie (88th, 20:12.75) and seniors Robinson Abreu (96th, 22:59.2), Connor Scott (97th, 23:03.19) and Kurt Guffey (98th, 23:42.76).
The boys team finished eighth (215) in the OCC-Central meet Oct. 12 at Darby, behind Davidson (34), Liberty (58), Coffman (58), Thomas (93), Marysville (154), UA (167) and Central Crossing (214).
Farmer led the Cougars, placing 12th (15:58.17) of 75 runners.
The girls team ended its season in the district 2 meet, finishing 12th (354) behind champion Gahanna (39) as 14 teams scored.
Sophomore Donna Mayhew led the Cougars, finishing 50th (21:36.81) of 95 runners.
Also competing were junior Heidi Paxson (57th, 21:55.97), freshman Hannah Festog (78th, 23:36.59), juniors Kelly Draves (84th, 24:19.40) and Jessie Neavill (90th, 25:20.43) and sophomore Macala Schirtzinger (94th, 27:24).
The girls team finished sixth (203) in the league meet, behind UA (39), Thomas (51), Davidson (59), Liberty (88) and Coffman (119) and ahead of Marysville (210) and Central Crossing (228).
Mayhew paced the Cougars, finishing 40th (20:49.78) of 68 runners.