In order for the Westchester High School Comets to challenge for the Western League football championship this season, Comets coach David Williams said it’s going to depend primarily on his team’s defensive play.

Williams, who enters his third season as head coach, said Westchester had a rather “average” season last year by ending with a 6-6 overall record and fourth-place finish in the Western League with a 2-3 league record.

The team lost to eventual champion Eagle Rock High School in the second round of the Los Angeles City Section Invitational Division playoffs.

“This season we’re hoping to clearly be above average,” Williams said.

The Comets are hoping to achieve much more this year, starting with capturing the league title, and Williams said one way to do that is to improve on defense.

“Our challenge is to be a better team defensively,” he said. “I think the main thing we need is to be more sound and more intense defensively. Once we do that it will help us on the other side of the ball.”

Last season the Comets were “not real effective in consistently stopping the run,” and many opponents were able to control the clock against them, Williams said.

While the team does not have much size this year, Williams expects the Comets to improve their play on both the offensive and defensive line and to remain a quick team.

“We should be explosive on offense and we expect to put more points on the board,” he said.

Some top returning players expected to lead the Comet offensive attack are senior quarterback Isiah Barton, senior running back Darren Starks and wide receiver Jesse Griffin.

Senior defensive back Khallid Muhammad, who led Southern California players last year with ten interceptions, is expected to be a key contributor on defense.

Many of the players on the Westchester roster kept in shape over the spring by competing in track and field and have prepared for football by lifting weights and training hard in the off-season, Williams said.

Williams acknowledged that the quality of competition has improved in the Western League in recent years, but he is confident that Westchester can compete for the league crown.

But if the Comets are to be a force in the league this season, they will need to get past defending league champions Venice and Fairfax high schools in the path to the league title.

Westchester will open the new season at home against Franklin High School at 7 p.m. Friday, September 8th.

Some other tests for the Comets in the pre-league season will be against host San Pedro High School Friday, September 15th, and host Leuzinger High Friday, September 22nd.

League competition for Westchester kicks off against visiting Hamilton High School Friday, October 13th.