J.J. Ross (Westlake HS football)

Westlake running back J.J. Ross rushed for 1,514 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2018.

With one of the top coaches in Southwest Louisiana now at its helm in John Richardson, the Westlake Rams will look to bounce back from a 2-8 season a year ago.

Richardson led Welsh to back-to-back Class 2A state championship games, winning a state title in 2017.

Westlake will play East Beauregard on August 30th at 5 p.m. at the SPOT Jamboree at Sulphur High School and will open the regular season at home when it hosts Tioga at  7 p.m. on September 6th.

Here is a look at five Rams to keep an eye on this season. 

J.J. Ross 

Senior l Running back

5-8, 190 pounds

NOTES: After rushing for just over 400 yards in his first two seasons, Ross had a breakout season in 2018 and earned 4-3A first team all-district, American Press All-Southwest Big School and LSWA Class 3A honorable mention all-state honors.

Ross rushed for 1,514 yards and 15 touchdowns while averaging 7.64 yards per carry. With Jasia Simien returning in the backfield as well and a switch to the split back veer offense, Ross is expected to pile up yards again.

FROM THE COACH: “He is just a really good high school running back,” Westlake head coach John Richardson said. “He has the size, speed and the power and the experience.

“I was real impressed with him in the spring. He has enough speed to make big plays.”

Jasia Simien

Senior l Running back

5-8, 170 pounds

NOTES: Simien was limited by injuries last year, but still managed to average a healthy 5.41 yards per carry. Richardson has high expectations for Simien in 2019.

FROM THE COACH: “Jasia’s running style really complements J.J.,” Richardson said. “He is more of a quicker type guy. 

“He is a really quick, shifty type running back. In this offense, it is always good to have two good backs. We have had several years where both backs were over 1,000 yards. I really expect both of those guys to go over 1,000 yards if they stay healthy.”

Nic Runnels 

Senior l Tight end

6-0, 205 pounds

NOTES: After starting at offensive guard last year, Runnels will make the move to tight end this year.

FROM THE COACH: “In this offense, the tight end ends up open a lot of times because we run the ball so effectively,” Richardson said. “He has good size and great hands, so I think he is going to do a really good job for us at tight end.”

Eli Goss 

Junior l Defensive lineman

6-3, 255 pounds

NOTES: Four-year starter Cedric Francis has graduated, so it will be up to Goss to lead the offensive line this season.

Goss recorded over 80 tackles and a dozen quarterback hurries in 2018 to earn 4-3A second team all-district honors.

FROM THE COACH: “He has all the size, power and speed for a guy his size to be a really dominant player on the field,” Richardson said. “That is what we are looking at.”

Dominick Sanchez 

Junior l Defensive lineman

5-10, 198 pounds

NOTES: Sanchez split time between the offensive line and linebacker last season. But after an impressive spring, Sanchez will join returners Goss and Ethan Deshotel on the defensive line.

FROM THE COACH: “Sanchez is a shifty, quick, strong athlete on the interior,” Richardson said. “I think he is going to give the offensive linemen a lot of trouble blocking him as the season goes on. 

“He is new there (defensive line), but he had a really good spring. That was the third position that he ended up in the spring for us and we knew that was his spot.”