Rick Rios gazed at the stadium at Westland High School on Feb. 20, reminiscing about his past and pondering his goals for the football program.
Pending school board approval Monday, Feb. 26, Rios will take over as coach of the Cougars. He's replacing Kyle Goebbel, who stepped down after four seasons.
Rios, 49, was visiting the school to meet with his new players and to oversee a weightlifting session.
"This reminds me of my first job (at Toledo Rogers) and we did such a special thing there that it brings back a lot of memories and it brings back a lot of the excitement that I think potentially we have here," Rios said. "I've been watching guys on film here the last couple of days and if we do things the right way the potential is there to do a lot better than they've been doing."
A 1987 graduate of Rogers, Rios played two seasons at John Carroll University before returning to his alma mater as freshman coach. He then served as the varsity coach at Rogers from 2000-10, compiling a 59-54 record for the most wins in program history. The Rams qualified for the Division II playoffs in 2000, 2005 and 2009.
Rios was the coach at Warren Harding in 2011, going 2-8, and then served as offensive coordinator at Canton McKinley from 2012-14 before taking over as coach at Loudon-ville, where he spent the past three seasons.
Rios went 6-24 at Loudon-ville, including 0-10 last fall.
"(The coaching search has) been a lengthy process," Westland athletics director Mike George said. "We've been very thorough in seeking the individual that best fits our school and community needs. Coach Rios fits that category. He has experience. He's taken teams and built them up, and that's our vision of our program under his guidance."
While his offenses have focused on spread and no-huddle schemes, Rios said his strategy at Westland will depend on his personnel. The same goes for his defensive schemes, which have been based on odd fronts in the past.
"Aggressive (and) passionate," Rios said of his coaching style. "We're going to be a group that gets after it tempo-wise both offensively and defensively, so you're going to see a team that will play hard on both sides of the football."
Rios will teach math at Westland.
Goebbel went 8-32 at Westland but had key achievements. The Cougars won seven games over his first two seasons after winning just five games over the previous six, and Westland snapped a 42-game losing streak in OCC play with a 40-7 win over Thomas Worthington on Sept. 26, 2014.
Boys basketball team to open postseason
The 46th-seeded boys basketball team opens the Division I district tournament at 18th-seeded Hilliard Bradley or 42nd-seeded Marion Harding in the second round Saturday, March 2.
The winner plays 17th-seeded Chillicothe, 18th-seeded Hilliard Darby or 19th-seeded Olentangy in a semifinal Wednesday, March 7, at a neutral site to be determined.
The district final is March 10 at Ohio Dominican.
The Cougars finished the regular season 2-20 overall and 0-10 in the OCC-Central Division with a 71-50 loss to Central Crossing on Feb. 16. DeShawn Evans scored 16 points and Mickey Martinez had 10.
Wrestlers battle in sectional tourney
The wrestling team competed in a 10-team Division I sectional Feb. 24 at Marysville, with the top four finishers in each weight class advancing to district Friday, March 2, and Saturday, March 3, at Darby.
At district, the top four finishers in each weight class advance to state March 8-10 at Ohio State.
Gymnasts compete at district meet
The gymnastics team competed in the district meet Feb. 24 at Worthington Kilbourne.
The top three teams advanced to state Friday, March 2, at Bradley. The top eight individuals in each event and the all-around advanced to state Saturday, March 3, at Bradley.
Girls basketball team falls to Central
Led by junior guard Trinity McClure and with what coach Matt Jaynes calls a promising incoming freshman class, the girls basketball team hopes to continue to progress next season.
The Cougars saw their season end Feb. 17 with a 96-17 loss at third-seeded Pickerington Central in the first round of the Division I district tournament.
McClure scored 10 points to lead 45th-seeded Westland, which finished 5-18 overall and 0-10 in the OCC-Central a season after going 1-22.
McClure averaged a team-high 25.7 points along with 4.9 rebounds and and was named first-team all-league. She had a season-high 48 points in a 74-62 loss to Central Crossing on Dec. 5.
"We play a lot of good coaches and teams that know how to play (McClure) now, and getting a few more ball players around her and working hard is going ... to take the load off her shoulders," Jaynes said.
Junior forward Atira Hoard averaged a team-high 12.6 rebounds and was honorable mention all-league. She had a program-record 33 rebounds in a 37-34 win at Whitehall on Jan. 30, the eighth most in OHSAA history.
Others eligible to return are juniors Shukri Abdikadir (forward), Jessica Alderete (guard), Carlie Henry (center), Emma Hutchinson (forward) and Khiayla Powell (forward/guard), sophomores Mimi Berete (guard), Danielle Fout (guard) and Bailey Garner (guard) and freshman Hannah Kershaw (forward).
The Cougars finished sixth in the OCC-Central behind Dublin Coffman (10-0), Upper Arlington (8-2), Hilliard Davidson (6-4), Marysville (4-6) and Central Crossing (2-8).
"We need to take care of the business that was right in front of us," Jaynes said. "We had four (close) losses and that hurts because when we lose games like that it really kills us."
Westland athlete announces commitment
Senior Mitch Burns announced Feb. 22 that he will play men's soccer at Wittenberg.
@ThisWeekFrankAt a glance
*Record: 5-18 overall, 0-10 (sixth) in OCC-Central
*Seniors lost: Khadija Abdikadir and Kaylee Schwart
*Key returnees: Atira Hoard and Trinity McClure