Story by Brad Bournival
Photos by Larry Bennet
Westlake's football team doesn't need to go searching very far to find the reason it didn't repeat its 2012 playoff appearance last season. A sparkling team at home with a 5-1 record, the Demons couldn't find an answer once it left Lou Duchez Field as they lost all four games on the road.
Add it up and you get a 5-5 record and a seat in the stands if you're a Westlake football player when it comes to the postseason.
The approach hasn't changed much in the eyes of coach Mark Campo, who isn't looking at five games on the road right now. Instead, the veteran coach is using an analogy heard around Northeast Ohio with the season set to get underway.
"It's one game at a time," Campo said.
"I don't think there's any different mindset," he said. "We know in the conference, or whoever we play, the more physical you are, the better your chances are to win the football game.
"That's been my focus since I've been here. Everything else takes care of itself," he added.
And that's the way the Demons will attack the 2014 season as it has a solid mix of newcomers to go along with the eight returning starters from last year's squad.
Campo's offensive line has two starters back in senior left tackle Cameron Brown (6-foot-2, 230) and senior right guard Billy Dreher (6-2, 230). The duo will mesh with seniors Max Humphrey (5-11, 230) and Marco Jamsek (6-3, 225) at center and right tackle, respectively. Junior left guard Justin Godfrey (6-2, 260) will fill in and is expected to not miss a beat.
The other side of the line offers a splash of new faces and stalwarts as Brown returns at defensive end and will help senior nose guard Michael Nita (6-1, 230) and junior end Michael Beaver (6-3, 185) settle into their positions.
"The one good thing we have is our junior varsity was 8-2 last year," Campo said. "I'm a firm believer in success breeds success. They did the right things down there.
"It's time for it to transfer to Friday night. I think we have football players that we can put on the field on both sides of the football," he said.
One of the spots Campo is intrigued about is at quarterback. That's where 6-foot, 175-pound quarterback Andris Balodis is ready to take over for Kent Axcell, who led Westlake to the playoffs in 2012.
Balodis has found success at every level. While the next step is a big one, it's one Campo is confident his junior signal caller can take.
Of course having junior running back JaQuan Hardy (5-9, 197) and senior wideout Nick Moracz (5-7, 155) back as starters helps. Hardy showed flashes of brilliance last season when he rushed for 232 yards and seven touchdowns in a 56-55 win over Rocky River.
"Andris is very unique, Campo said. "He's been very successful throwing the football in eighth grade, ninth grade, 10th grade and in our scrimmages.
"I think they're going to help him because we have athletes on the outside and a legitimate running back that they.re going to have to focus on. But Andris will help our running game because there's so much he can do with his arms and his legs. I'm real excited about our quarterback," he said.
Juniors Mark Schuler (6-3, 185) and Brody Evans (6-1, 205) will take over at wide receiver and wing back to complete Westlake's offense.
Defensively, the Demons will be as strong as the glue they had from last season's squad with seniors Mason Makulinski (6-2, 205) and Chad Bata (6-1, 205) manning the outside linebacker positions.
Malek Odetallah (5-9, 210, Jr.) and Matt Duperow (5-9, 180, Sr.) will take over inside, while Evans and Brian Wallenhorst (5-8, 170, Sr.) will also help on the outside.
"Chad has come a long way," Campo said. "He's getting some college looks. He knows what's at stake. He's extremely fast and physical. He's everything you want in a linebacker.
"Mason is the same way. He's done his work in the offseason. Any time you can have that kind of force on the inside and some people on the inside, you're in good shape. We have to stop the run. Last year, we didn't stop the run and it hurts us," he said.
The secondary is full of newcomers with senior Kevin McLaughlin (5-9, 160) at safety and senior Hunter Solecki (6-8, 160), junior Sal Russo (5-8, 160) and sophomore Tariq Bach (5-8, 160) at cornerback.
"We have to play physical football," Campo said. "We have to have good technique. We have to play whistle to whistle, make practice like a game and we have to stay healthy."
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