Despite still seeking its first victory, the Thomas Worthington High School football team has had some players step up this season.

Despite still seeking its first victory, the Thomas Worthington High School football team has had some players step up this season.

According to coach Scott Gordon, one of those players is offensive tackle Brooks Gilmore, a third-year starter. Gordon said the 6-foot, 265-pound senior has done everything the coaches have asked.

"He has just had a stellar year so far," said Gordon, whose team is 0-4 overall and 0-1 in the OCC-Central Division heading into its contest against visiting Westland on Friday, Sept. 21. "He is one who performs the best on the line and is always one of our top performers regardless of position."

Gilmore is the bright spot on a struggling offense. Thomas has scored just 16 points through four games and is coming off a 42-7 loss to host Upper Arlington on Sept. 14, though the Cardinals did outgain the Golden Bears in total yards, 253-220.

Three big plays by UA in the first half helped derail Thomas. Bears linebacker Jack Mueller returned an interception 22 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, giving UA a 14-0 lead. The other two big plays came in the second quarter, as running back Gus Ackley scored on a 95-yard run and defensive back Sam Wheeler returned an interception 39 yards for a score, giving UA a 28-0 lead. The Bears led 35-0 at halftime.

In addition to three interceptions, the Cardinals lost two fumbles.

"It takes more than a few players making plays to get the offense going," Gordon said. "I wish I had five or six guys up front that can do the job Brooks Gilmore can do. He's the only player we have that can dominate the man in front of him.

"He's not ever been a real loud guy, but his teammates voted him a captain and he accepted the role. He's a quiet, smart young man who just has this terrific inner toughness. Watching him accept the role of leadership and watching his confidence grow is awesome. You love to witness the personal growth of young people."

Trailing UA 42-0 in the fourth quarter, Thomas scored on a 25-yard pass from quarterback Danny Gordon to wide receiver Jeryl Smallwood. Gordon was 16-for-22 passing for 126 yards and running back Tony Harvard rushed for 188 yards on 27 carries. Smallwood had seven receptions for 61 yards.

Thomas also has struggled on defense, allowing an average of 37 points.

Still, coach Gordon has been thrilled by the play of senior linebacker Max King.

"Entering training camp, we were scratching our heads trying to find someone with the ability to make the right reads and calls, someone who was quick and physical enough to make plays," coach Gordon said.

"We didn't even know if he was coming out for football because he's a summer camp counselor who came to us late. We were thinking he might be a good long snapper and maybe a fullback or tight end.

"But then we asked guys to give (linebacker) a try and he stepped in there and immediately turned heads. He fills the holes, steps up to meet the ball in the middle and has done everything we've asked of him. He's only 5-11 and 185, so he's not physically imposing. But he's been a real tough player for us inside."

The Cardinals hope Westland is the tonic they need to turn around their season.

The Cougars fell to 1-3 overall and 0-1 in the OCC-Central with a 51-14 loss to Marysville on Sept. 14. Their only win came against Columbus Crusaders, 32-27 in the opener Aug. 24. The Crusaders are not an OHSAA-sanctioned team.

Westland is led by quarterback Jalen Brown and running backs Korey Browning and Mike Jackson, as well as two-way linemen Anthony Beardsley, Cory Beasy and Kyle Maxwell.

The Cougars have been outscored by an average of 43.3 points to 21.

"We need to make something good happen early in the game because when you're struggling like we are, one bad play can deflate you," coach Gordon said.

"We need to try to remain positive and show some fortitude. But there's no doubt about it, you feed off good plays and bad plays. If we can make positive plays early, that could change the direction of the game."