With his team beginning its OCC-Central Division schedule, Westland High School boys soccer coach Jamie Dato was hoping the Cougars would return to the strong play that helped them get out to a 3-0-1 start.

The Cougars were 3-3-1 before opening league play Sept. 13 against Marysville.

"The last few games have been frustrating," Dato said after a 4-0 loss to visiting Reynoldsburg on Sept. 11. "We have a hard time going to the ball, meeting the ball. We let teams outplay us and I'm not sure why. We're letting teams outplay us physically. We have a tough schedule. I think we can turn it around, but they have to want to turn it around."

With three consecutive games against league favorites -- Marysville, Dublin Coffman on Tuesday, Sept. 18, and Upper Arlington on Sept. 25 -- Dato knows his team will be tested.

"I always tell them if we can play the way I know we can play, we can compete with anybody," Dato said. "You have to play hard, you can't make unforced turnovers like we do. You have to play up to your capabilities and when we don't this (loss to Reynoldsburg) is what happens."

Westland closes league play Oct. 9 at Central Crossing. The Cougars beat the Comets 3-1 last season for their lone league win, as they finished fifth (1-4) behind champion Coffman (4-0-1).

"We're looking forward to those games to see how good we are compared to them," senior midfielder Juan Martinez said.

After defeating Briggs 4-1 on Aug. 30, Westland had lost three consecutive games heading into its game at Marysville. It was outscored 11-2 in those contests.

Martinez and Axel Rodriguez scored in a 4-2 loss to Grove City on Sept. 4. Goalkeeper Trent Beach made four saves.

The Cougars then were shut out by Gahanna (3-0 on Sept. 6) and Reynoldsburg, with Beach totaling 16 saves in the two games.

"Trent does a good job," Dato said.

After the loss to Reynoldsburg, Martinez was confident the Cougars could return to form with some adjustments.

"We shouldn't be too disappointed, we came out here and fought well," he said. "We could get better at saying stuff and communicate more. Overall, we didn't do too badly, although we did lose by a few goals. ... We're improving every game and will get better as we go along."

Martinez credits Dato, who is in his third season, for instilling a new mindset within the program.

"Coach has helped us a lot," Martinez said. "A lot of us didn't really know as much soccer. Some of us who are playing right now don't play for a club and coming here they have learned a lot from coach, and so have I."

Football team to meet Pioneers

After a pair of strong efforts in losses to Licking Heights (34-32 on Aug. 24) and Marion-Franklin (46-44 on Aug. 31), football coach Rick Rios was disappointed with his team's performance in a 30-7 loss to visiting Delaware on Sept. 7.

"We imploded. We showed some of our character flaws," Rios said. "This has been more of a character-building week than anything because some of our past came out during school and in pregame. There were some things that I wasn't happy about before we even kicked off. We have to address those things and make sure they don't become a bigger issue down the road."

The Cougars, who were 0-3 before playing Franklin Heights on Sept. 14, play host to Olentangy Orange on Friday, Sept. 21, in their final non-league game.

The Pioneers were 1-2 before playing Big Walnut on Sept. 14.

Entering the season, Orange's defense was expected to be led by senior lineman Zach Harrison, who is among the state's top college recruits. Harrison, however, missed the first three games with a leg injury.

Running back Mark Roberts led the Pioneers' offense in a 42-7 loss to Pickerington North on Sept. 7. He had 92 yards rushing on 15 carries, while quarterback Robbie Dayhuff gained 69 yards on nine carries.

Through three games, Westland quarterback DeShawn Evans had completed 72 of 130 passes for 838 yards with nine touchdowns and four interceptions.

Peterson Iresne had rushed for 232 yards and three scores on 48 carries, and Anthony Widen had 21 catches for 283 yards and three touchdowns. Robert Clark had 227 yards receiving and two touchdowns, and Isaiah Dukes had 221 yards receiving and four scores.

"With these kids not having been there before, not being in the close games, they have not handled every situation well, but those are learning moments for us and things for us to grow from," Rios said.

Boys golf team caps league play

The boys golf team competed in the fourth and final round of the OCC-Central tournament Sept. 12 at Darby Creek, finishing sixth (500) behind first-place UA (312).

The Cougars finished sixth overall (1-19) behind UA (20-0), Coffman (14-6), Hilliard Davidson (14-6), Marysville (8-12) and Central Crossing (3-17).

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. 19 -- Arrowhead Invitational at Whetstone

BOYS GOLF

Sept. 17 -- Groveport at The Links at Groveport

Sept. 19 -- Hilliard Darby at Darby Creek

BOYS SOCCER

*Sept. 18 -- Home vs. Dublin Coffman

GIRLS SOCCER

Sept. 18 -- At Heath

*Sept. 20 -- At Coffman

GIRLS TENNIS

Sept. 17 -- At Canal Winchester in makeup from Aug. 16

Sept. 18 -- At Newark

Sept. 19 -- Home vs. Ready

Sept. 20 -- Home vs. Westerville North

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

Sept. 18 -- At Whitehall

*Sept. 20 -- Home vs. Hilliard Davidson

*League contest