Westland: Cougars hoping for strong offseason

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Sophomore Zane Gibbs-Aguon is expected to be among the top returnees for the Westland football team, which finished 0-6 overall and 0-5 in the OCC-Ohio Division.
Westland’s Tim Smith finds running room against Grove City on Oct. 2. Smith should be a top contributor next fall.

In a season that was shortened because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the Westland football team dealt with more than its fair share of adversity.

The Cougars dealt with numerous injuries and finished 0-6 overall and 0-5 in the OCC-Ohio Division. With a depleted roster, coach Rick Rios opted to hold Westland out of the Division I, Region 3 playoffs even though all teams were eligible for the postseason this year.

“It was definitely trying this year with everything, but it’s a (senior) group that we’ll have good memories of for sure,” Rios said.

Rios said the cancellation of early season non-league contests against Delaware, Franklin Heights and Thomas Worthington hurt the Cougars' chances to produce better results. Delaware went 2-8, Franklin Heights finished 1-7 and Thomas went 2-7.

The Cougars already have begun their offseason training program.

“This was something that was going really well for us last January and February before everything shut down (because of the pandemic),” Rios said of the offseason program. “We seemed to have a huge disconnect when we came back and obviously everybody handled everything differently. It seemed like everything that we thought we were heading towards in January and February was not there when we came back in June and July. We have to get back at it.”

Colton Bogle (OL/DL) led an eight-player senior class. He was named first-team all-league and special mention all-district.

Two of the top returnees should be junior Jovaan Cooper and sophomore Marvic Martinez, who split time at quarterback.

“It’s going to be a huge competition (next season),” Rios said.

Other key returnees should be junior Noah Reynolds (RB/DL) and sophomore Zane Gibbs-Aguon, both of whom were second-team all-league. Reynolds also was honorable mention all-district.

Junior linebacker Jakob Hurley, center, was honorable mention all-league for the Cougars this season.

Junior linebacker Makiah Crawford was special mention all-league and junior linebacker Jakob Hurley was honorable mention all-league.

“We learned a lot this season,” Hurley said. “We had a lot of mistakes throughout our games, but we learned as the season went on. We had one of the toughest schedules. It was (difficult) playing all these good teams, but it was fun just to see these high-level teams and going against them and seeing how we can contest their skills.”

Other key players eligible to return include juniors Darius Love Jr. (OL/DL), Jenell Matia (WR/DB), Jacob Mullens (OL/DL) and Seth Westmoreland (WR/DB).

Hurley believes a strong offseason is crucial for the program. He also is a standout in wrestling, advancing to the Division I state tournament last season at 145 pounds before the event was canceled because of the pandemic.

“It’s very important to get back to work, especially with this (senior) class coming up,” Hurley said. “I know coach Rios has been saying that the class of 2022 is going to be the best class that he’s seen coming through the years for Westland football. We have a lot of numbers, so once we get everyone in the weight room, we can make a lot of progression.”

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank

FOOTBALL

Record: 0-6 overall

OCC-Ohio standings: Pickerington North (5-0), Westerville Central (4-1), Gahanna (3-2), New Albany (2-3), Grove City (1-4), Westland (0-5)

Seniors lost: Colton Bogle, Kyler Buckner, Rahkim Foster, Payton Hayes, Hayden Hughes, Ibrahim Kamara, Evan Lomangino and Antonio Martinez

Key returnees: Jovaan Cooper, Zane Gibbs-Aguon, Jakob Hurley, Marvic Martinez, Noah Reynolds and Tim Smith

Postseason: Did not compete in Division I, Region 3 playoffs