Westfall eSports

Article written by: Steven Collins, Senior Reporter at the Circleville Herald
November 14, 2022

WILLIAMSPORT — If you’re into competitive video games or are looking for a career in content creation or tech and go to Westfall High School, joining the esports team might be right for you.

Westfall High School teachers Matthew Greenlee and Devin Schoonover coach the team. They play three games, Fortnite, Overwatch, and Valorant. Westfall is in the Central Southeast Conference and they play much larger schools like Dublin Coffman.

Schoonover said the scoring works in that each team gets points for kills and placement and it goes into a giant pool at the end of the season, which determines placement.

Esports Ohio has a website dedicated to information with resources, identifying the schools involved across the state, and even posting standings and scores for each of the divisions.

Last season the Fortnite team made it to the Championship Semi-Finals and the Overwatch team finished 3rd in Districts.

This year the chess team is second in the state and is competing this week in the State Championship. The team is led by captain Junior Connor Lambert. The Overwatch team went undefeated in the regular season and looking to make a big push in the postseason under captain Zachary Evans.

Westfall’s two Fortnite teams are ranked 1st and 3rd in the Central/Southeast Region at the end of the regular season. The captains are Evans and Mason Jacobs who are both seniors.

The Valorant team is ranked 2nd in the Central/Southeast Region and finished up their season last week under captain Senior Matt Mathes.

You can stream their matches at www.twitch.tv/westfall_esports

Greenlee said the program started two years ago when he and Schoonover were discussing esports with the district’s IT head JD Williamson.

“We saw many central Ohio high schools starting their own programs and that got us started in the process,” he said. “In the last two years, we’ve raised over $17,000 in grants, become a recognized varsity sport, and competed in the State Championship for Fortnite.”

Schoonover said in order to be a varsity sport you have to be in a club for three seasons and during which they went and fundraised. The students practice and play both at home and inside the technology room at the school where there is a bank of PCs set up.

“The big grant was South Central Power who gave us $9,000 and that allowed us to buy six PCs,” he said. “Westfall Education Foundation donated about $5,000 over the last several years.”

Greenlee said he hopes the kids get a similar experience in esports that they would in any other sport like basketball or football.

“Not only do we want to give our players the feeling of belonging to a school team but we also want to expose our students to career opportunities in the world of gaming, graphic arts, and computer sciences,” Greenlee said. “That the esports program is here to serve our students by giving them first-hand experience in the future of gaming, robotics, engineering, math, and science.”

Schoonover agreed.

“A lot of these kids are introverts and kids that aren’t on a lot of teams and don’t experience that camaraderie,” he said. “They recognized all the fall sports and they announced the esports team and only one person stood up. We have over 20 kids in the program right now. It’s nice that these kids are getting the opportunity to be a part of the school and get their achievements announced like any other sport.”

Greenlee said the experience of being on the team is a great launching point for potential tech-based careers.

“In just over two years our program has serviced over 60 students and saw some of these students go into game-graphic design and play esports at the collegiate level,” he said. “Esports is a great opportunity for students to gain first-hand academic experience in STEM.”

For the students, the desire to be on the team comes from a love of video games.

Jacobs said he joined the team to get his name out there and make something of his love. He’s a big fan of Fortnite.

“We come in and play together in teams of three and develop communication and friendships,” Jacobs said. “It all brings you together. Every day that you’re playing your game you’re looking forward to it after school. You want to do the best you can because at the end of the year if you make it to states it’s so much fun.”

“You just play and have fun and you get better while you’re having fun,” he said. “Esports is on the come up and I’ve watched people on Twitch [a streaming platform] go from nothing to famous.”

Jacobs said he wants to further his esports career.

“My main focus is these games since I was 14, I’ve wanted to make something out of it whether it’s content creation or becoming a professional,” he said. “It’s as draining as any other job.”

Jacobs said his highlight so far was going to state’s last year.

“It was so much fun,” he said. “We went to Akron and played there at a LAN and all the teams were in one room playing each other. We stayed at a hotel and went out to eat every night when we were there. You got covered for a whole weekend just for being good at a game.”

Evans said he joined the esports team because he loves video games.

“I’ve been playing them my whole life,” he said. “I’m pretty good at them and I love to compete.”

Evans said his first game was World of Warcraft and Overwatch is his favorite game.

“I like the rank system and the different characters,” he said.

Evans said the team formed a bond and with that bond comes trust.

“We practice as a team once a week and we also link up when we’re at home and get a party whenever we can,” he said. “We talk and we bond and when we do we play better together.”

Evans said anyone who is into esports should do it.

“It’s a lot of work, it’s expensive but it’s really fun if you can do it,” he said.

Evans said their team is really good and they plan to not only go to the State Tournament but to also compete at a high level.

“We got third last year in Fortnite and this year we’re on track to win,” he said.