Fort Worth Western Hills
Last season: 1-9 (1-5 in District 7-5A)
Key players: QB Zac Smothermon (6-0, 170); RB Eric Hall (5-10, 160); LB Chris Zamora (5-10, 185); WR Kyle Sutton (5-10, 160); OL/DL Gabe Spearman (5-10, 270); OL/DL Stephen Barefield (6-0, 290); LB Steryling Lang (6-1, 220)
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The big picture: Western Hills struggled last year, particularly on offense, suffering three shutouts in district competition alone. But coach Blake Moilan said he hopes a strong off-season regimen and change of attitude will ignite the Cougars in 2016. “We’ve been building the past few years to get where we are,” Moilan said. “We have about 30 seniors on the team this year. The biggest issue we’ve had the past few years is learning how to win. You have to have that desire, and until you learn how to win, you won’t be successful. We had to change the way we did things. The kids got in the weight room and worked a lot harder. The past few years, the kids put in the effort, but they were a little bit behind. Now, we’ve caught up a little bit.” QB Zac Smothermon said he noticed the difference in athletic ability as well as mentality. “This off-season, it wasn’t just the hard work that everyone put in when we were lifting and running in the mornings, but our attitudes changed,” Smothermon said. “We realized that we want to win more than anything else, and we are going to do whatever it takes to get there.” Moilan and the Cougars’ coaching staff implemented the spread offense two years ago. And veteran leadership is in place. “I think to have success, we need to win early,” Moilan said. “If we can do well in nondistrict and win those games, I think we have a chance to do very well.”
Quotable: “Things are finally starting to come together, and we are working as a team. We are accomplishing goals we set as a team and if we continue to do that we are going to go far.” — QB Zac Smothermon
“To make the playoffs, we’ll need to execute plays correctly and just have everyone do their part. I have no doubt my brothers and I are coming to compete this year.” — LB Steryling Lang
Notable: The last time Western Hills made the postseason was 2010. Between 2000 and 2009, the Cougars were in the playoffs four times and were co-district champions in 2005.