Westland High School boys soccer coach Jamie Dato likes the direction his team is heading entering an important stretch of the season.

The Cougars kick off OCC-Central Division action when they play host to Marysville on Tuesday, Sept. 12.

Dato was pleased with his team's 3-2 record heading into its game Sept. 7 against Grove City, but he said a strong showing in league play would further validate its progress.

While the Cougars finished 8-8-1 overall a year ago in Dato's first season, they were only 1-4 in the OCC-Central.

"Sometimes the kids don't even know who they're playing, they like to play so much they just go out and play," Dato said. "As we get closer and I talk about league standings, I hope to put a little more emphasis on the league games and try to go 3-2 in the league or better than that."

After earning a 3-2 win at Pickerington North on Aug. 29, the Cougars lost to visiting Pickerington Central 1-0 on Aug. 31 in a game in which Dato said his team had "30 scoring chances with shots on goal or shots wide, and we just couldn't score."

Westland bounced back to defeat Franklin Heights 7-1 on Sept. 5, outscoring the Falcons 5-0 in the second half. Senior forward Mitch Burns and junior forward Alan Soto each scored two goals.

"It was a little closer game at half. It was only 2-1," Dato said. "We weren't playing very well, but we pulled away a bit in the second half. It wasn't a well-played game, but we got a nice victory out of it."

Dato said senior Jose Vazquez, who moved from Mexico during his junior year, has stood out.

"It doesn't surprise me just from what I saw this summer," Dato said. "He's probably been my best all-around player, which has been nice. It's nice to see him play that way."

Senior Armando Mendez Raya has played well in goal, Dato said. He had 10 saves against Central.

Following its game against Marysville, the Cougars have league contests against Dublin Coffman (Sept. 19), Upper Arlington (Sept. 26), Hilliard Davidson (Oct. 3) and Central Crossing (Oct. 10).

The Cougars defeated Central Crossing 3-0 for their lone league win last season, but they were competitive in losses to UA (3-2), Coffman (3-1) and Marysville (3-1). Coffman won the league title at 5-0.

"We can come out in the top two or three because we have a good team this year," Burns said. "I expect to beat Marysville. The games that are going to be close are Davidson and Coffman, but the others we should be able to win. ... I'd like to finish (the season) with double the wins over losses."

Girls soccer team
earns first win

The girls soccer team earned its first win under first-year coach Mike Schwarten, defeating Franklin Heights 4-1 on Sept. 5 as junior Shelbey Barnhill scored all four goals.

"It took us awhile to get there, but it could have taken longer I suppose," Schwarten said. "The girls are showing they want change and that they're willing to put in the work to be able to create that change, so hopefully in the next few years and the rest of the season we'll continue to grow."

Westland lost at Hamilton Township 2-0 on Sept. 6 and was 1-5 before playing Groveport on Sept. 9.

Senior Claudia Perez-Hall had nine saves against Hamilton Township.

Football team to
face Franklin Heights

The football team plays host to Franklin Heights on Friday, Sept. 15, looking to avenge a 42-0 loss to the Falcons last season.

"Our kids definitely look forward to playing schools in our district because they've either known each other or it's the close-to-home kind of talk and rivalry that it brings," coach Kyle Goebbel said. "Last year we went over there and we got beat by a really good if not the best Franklin Heights team that's ever come through (there). We want to get a little more respect back from what happened last year."

Westland is 1-2 after defeating Delaware 19-14 on Sept. 8, and Franklin Heights is 1-2 after defeating Briggs 20-17 that night.

Last year, Franklin Heights had its first winning season since 2001, finishing 10-2 after losing to eventual state runner-up Massillon Perry 66-28 in a Division II, Region 7 semifinal. It was the Falcons' first postseason berth since 1989.

Franklin Heights, however, lost several key players to graduation as well as coach Tennyson Varney, who is now at Grove City.

The Falcons were outscored 90-33 in their first two games, including a 44-14 loss at Harvest Prep on Sept. 1 in which they allowed 610 total yards, including 560 rushing.

Quarterback Cody Little rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries to lead the Falcons.

The Cougars lost to visiting Mifflin 27-21 on Sept. 1 after trailing 20-7 at halftime.

Soriba Kaba had 13 tackles and four sacks to lead the defense, which limited Mifflin to 38 yards rushing. Marcus Jones had 13 tackles and one sack, and Geno Sekura and Ousmane Dabo each had 13 tackles.

Quarterback DeShawn Evans passed for 80 yards and two touchdowns.

"It was an extremely tough loss," Goebbel said. "We thought potentially we were the better team and should have won. We let them out-athlete us a little bit and offensively we just couldn't get anything going. Our run game struggled a little bit, and we had some mistakes here and there."

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Westland cross country, boys golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:

CROSS COUNTRY

Sept. 16 -- Shin Splint Invitational at home

BOYS GOLF

Sept. 13 -- OCC-Central at Darby Creek

BOYS SOCCER

*Sept. 12 -- Home vs. Marysville

Sept. 14 -- At Lancaster

GIRLS SOCCER

*Sept. 12 -- At Marysville

Sept. 14 -- At Tree of Life

GIRLS TENNIS

Sept. 13 -- Home vs. DeSales

Sept. 14 -- Home vs. Delaware

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

*Sept. 12 -- Home vs. Upper Arlington

*Sept. 14 -- At Hilliard Davidson

*League contest