Donte Goosby knew he had a potential standout on his Centennial High School football team during his first season as coach in 2013.

Donte Goosby knew he had a potential standout on his Centennial High School football team during his first season as coach in 2013.

What he didn't realize was that then-freshman Darius Echols would blossom into a "coach's dream" -- a tremendous leader on the team and in the school building.

"His skill level was good and I knew he was a good kid and a willing leader," Goosby said. "He started eight games for us as a freshman. But he has really developed into a great leader and that's because he's such an outstanding young man.

"He's humble and eager to do anything to help those around him, whether it's on the field or off. He's responsible and always does the right things. He's a solid student and coach's dream. Every coach would love to have someone like him. He looks out for his teammates and others like he's their big brother or father figure."

That's because Echols, a 5-foot-9, 195-pound offensive lineman and linebacker, is following in the footsteps of his big brother.

Echols learned to love football, wrestling and track and field because of a close relationship with his brother, Desmond Wright, who competed in those sports for the Stars and often allowed Echols to tag along with him.

Wright committed suicide in his senior year, on Jan. 28, 2012.

"I knew right then that I was going to honor him by not only playing and trying to compete at a high level like he did, but also by being a role model for others to follow like he was my role model," Echols said. "He was my best friend, my teacher and the most important person in my family. I think about him every day.

"It's because of him I started playing football when I was 9. Any accolades I get from playing sports are a reflection on him, not me. I play for him. I always try to make sure I'm living like he did, too. He was always happy and in a good mood. That's what was so strange and unexpected about his suicide."

Goosby is hoping Echols' approach and leadership will rub off on all of his teammates.

"He's a great football player and he's playing out of position to help us," Goosby said. "He's undersized for an offensive lineman, but he does anything we ask of him, and he does more than we ask him to do as a leader."

Echols embraces his role.

"It's hard being on a young team, but if I can help the young dudes develop and eventually reach their ability, that's my goal," he said. "That's my main focus this year, to help them focus and prepare them to play their best. Those guys who want to be here and want to play hard, I'll do anything I can to help them. If they improve, that would be the highlight of my senior season."

The Stars were seeking that progression when they played Columbus West on Sept. 2 after opening with a 40-0 loss to Grandview on Aug. 26. They will play host to Bexley on Friday, Sept. 9.

Bexley won last year's meeting 49-0 en route to an 8-2 regular season before losing to Jackson 49-14 in the first round of the Division III, Region 9 playoffs.

The Lions opened with a 41-20 win over Harvest Prep on Aug. 26 and played Bloom-Carroll on Sept. 2.

Against Harvest Prep, the Lions had 374 total yards as running back Micah Fliegel rushed for 187 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. Quarterback Simon Kroos was 6-for-6 passing for 89 yards with a 29-yard touchdown to slotback Josh Jones and a 20-yard score to wide receiver Tyler Mitchell. Kroos also rushed for touchdowns of 1 and 2 yards.

Bexley allowed 208 total yards against Harvest Prep.

Centennial's offense is led by running backs Luchene Davis and Tyree Sutton, quarterback Craig Burt and receiver Kylen Gilber.

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