Story by Jim Horvath
Photos by Larry Bennet
The 2012 high school football season was one Westlake fans will never forget.
The Demons broke out with one their best seasons in school history. They went 9-1 in the regular season, defeated Avon Lake for the first time in years, tied the Shoremen for the Southwestern Conference championship and made the Division II playoffs.
That season is now history as Westlake gears up for the 2013 opener at North Ridgeville. Head coach Mark Campo begins his fifth season and returns 11 starters. After a recent scrimmage at Lakewood, he was asked about the difference between this preseason and preseasons past.
“The expectations,” Campo said. “We expect to win every time we play on Friday night. That’s what’s different. We expect to win. As coaches, we’re not looking for a way to scheme to cover up a weakness here or cover up a weakness there.
“We’re just going out there and do what we do, and we’re going to do it well. We’re going to play the game of football the way it’s supposed to be played. And we have the type of players who can do that.
“From a coaching standpoint, and from the players’ standpoint...we expect to win,” he added.
Westlake lost 11 starters from that playoff team that lost to Mansfield Madison in the first round, including bruising running back/linebacker Logan Paul and skilled players like Shawn Turk. Still, Campo feels this year’s team will benefit from the example those players set.
“Last year was good for us because it was a chance for these guys to learn,” Campo said after Lakewood scrimmage. “This year is different, but we had a great group of seniors for these guys to learn from.
“We’re at a point where we have people who can play this game. We have people who are physical. We’ve just got to keep getting better. That’s the key. The more experience we can get playing this game and understanding what we’re trying to do offensively and defensively, the better we’ll be.
“That was our goal last year: To get better every week,” he added.
One strength the Demons will have is experience up front. Among the returning players are seniors James Bailey (5-10, 250) at center, Alex Busser (6-0, 245) at guard/defensive tackle and Quinn Bari (6-2, 260) at offensive and defensive tackle. Also returning is junior Billy Dreher (6-1, 225), who plays a guard/defensive tackle position and handles the punting duties as well.
Help will come from junior Chad Bata (6-0, 195) at linebacker and offensive tackle, as well as junior Cameron Brown (6-1, 235) at offensive tackle and defensive end.
“We’re getting there,” Campo said. “I think our strength, obviously, are our offensive and defensive lines. Those guys are seniors now, and that’s the way it should be. They get after it.
“That’s usually where games are won and lost. If we can control the line of scrimmage, and the rest of our people can tackle and our offense can make some big plays, we have enough to be successful.
“If I’m a skilled guy and I’m looking at those guys in front of me, I’m a little more confident. You get a little more bounce in your step - and a little bit less wear-and-tear, hopefully,” Campo said.
Also returning is senior quarterback Kent Axcell (6-2, 190), along with senior wide receiver/corner back Emmette Rogers (6-0, 175). Junior running back Mason Makulinski (6-0, 205) takes over for Paul, while senior Adam Sandor (6-2, 215) moves out to wide receiver from his tight end spot.
“Kent’s our leader,” Campo said. “He’s got a year under his belt with the offense. I can make a mistake on a call, and he can fix it. That’s how good he is. He knows where the play should be called, and he has some good weapons around him.
“We had to replace some guys, but Makulinski is a load who played some last year as a sophomore. We’ve got Sandor moved out to wide receiver and Rogers coming back, plus we’ve got some quickness with our new guys that will keep people honest.”
Campo said this year’s team should prove to be quicker overall.
“Every team is a little bit different,” he said. “I think this team brings a little bit more speed. We still have power, but we do have a little bit more speed and athleticism than last year’s team. Last year’s team was an extremely physical, hard-nosed football team.
“Even though we don’t have the size and strength this year in our skilled positions, we certainly can have that mentality and have it work in our favor that way too,” he said.
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