WESTLAKE — There are only seven letterwinners and six starters — three of whom play on both sides of the ball — back from a team that went 3-7 in 2009.
But don’t think of Westlake as the Southwestern Conference doormat, at least not until the hitting starts for real Friday evening.
Coach Mark Campo sees his Demons as a far better team from the one he had a year ago, his first season as the boss at the Hilliard Boulevard school.
“We’re going to have a winning season, even if everyone else is picking us last,” Campo said. “We have a much better team.”
A much better team despite a dearth of veterans. Campo, however, was quick to point out that varsity letters aren’t handed out just for coming to practice everyday at Westlake. The criteria to win a letter is stricter than at most schools.
“We’re a senior team, no doubt about it,” Campo said. “Most of them did not letter, that’s true. They still have experience and they have grown up. They’re ready.”
One senior who did get a letter is Mike Massaad, the returning starter at quarterback. Massaad may be even more optimistic than his coach, and insisted that 3-7 and 4-6 aren’t records that are going to be tolerated.
“Our goal is to make the playoffs,” Massaad said. “I don’t think that’s too high a goal at all. We have the talent to do that.”
Westlake hasn’t had a winning season since 2004 and hasn’t been in a playoff game since 1989. The quarterback thinks he has the talent around him to have the Demons playing in November. “We have a lot of receivers, about 15 of them,” Massaad said. “It’ll be a lot different from last year. I mostly just used two guys — Joe Lowe and Nick Tecca. This year, our main offense is out of a spread with me in a shotgun formation. I’ll be using my legs a lot more as well.”
“Our quarterback can run it,” Campo said. “He runs a 4.65 in the 40 (yard dash), which is decent for a high school quarterback. He’s intelligent. Defenses can’t just load it up in one area on us anymore. They have to account for the quarterback.” Massaad is the only backfield regular returning. Junior running back Jonathan Brick and senior Amir Odetallah at fullback are likely to start alongside Massaad. Top candidates at wide receiver are also seniors — Alex Schultz, Alec Wargo and Oliver Mooney.
They will all definitely play, but so will many others. “We have enough out there, weapons-wise,” Campo said. “They can run and they have good hands.”
The most experience Westlake has back on offense is on the line. Justin Smith, Ray Heimann and Elias Chbeir all started. Expected to join them in a starting spot is Alex Tepel, the biggest of those four at 255 pounds.
“All of them can move,” Campo said. “They’re all athletic and they all worked hard in the weight room.”
Smith, Heimann and Chbeir are also returning starters on the defensive line. Expect senior Jacob Kutz to be a regular of the defensive line in the Demons’ 3-5 alignment as well.
Two other starters are back on defense. Anthony Zappone, a junior, will be one linebacker. Adam Hamdan, a senior, returns at free safety. Campo said the hottest battles in preseason have been for linebacker and defensive back jobs.
“We have good size on our lines,” Campo said. “We have a quarterback who can run and pass. We need to be physical. We need to push people around. That’s how we will be successful. If we are a physical football team we can win a lot of games.”
More high school football previews
- Elyria ready to chase playoffs
- EC has plenty to be excited about
- Midview has depth, confidence, too
- Rangers staying hungry
- Keystone counting on defense
- Wellington plans to throw more
- Avon Lake needs a runner
- Amherst expects to be even better this year
- Oberlin staying positive despite heavy graduation losses
- Lorain has high hopes for Titans
- Clippers feel new guys are prepared
- Columbia thinks this season could be a special one
- Brookside’s comfort level rising
- Are Sailors on the way back up?
- Olmsted Falls relying on excellent senior class
- Firelands’ focus on present, not future
- Avon looks to return to playoffs
- Pay-to-pay hasn’t derailed North Olmsted’s optimism
- Black River loaded with talent
- Lutheran West hoping to stay healthy this season
- Coach thinks Westlake will have big year
Contact Steve Byrne at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.