Ontario football coach John Kusleika still optimistic

Jaguars mascot photo.

Veteran coach John Kusleika knew he had his work cut out for him when he jumped on board as Ontario High School’s head football coach last year.

But it was even more challenging than he ever expected. So he is excited about getting the new season underway and continuing the building process.

The Jaguars (2-8, 0-5 in Mt. Baldy League) started out alright winning two of their first three games. But little went right after that and they didn’t get in the win column again.


Kusleika says it was a matter of not enough guys buying into the process.

“I don’t think it’s too much to ask for guys to show up on time, give a full effort and compete and work hard,” he said. “I don’t ask anything out of them that I don’t give myself.”

Kusleika graduated 22 seniors and says the rebuilding will go on with a large core of juniors which can be a blessing and a curse. There is less experience but there are also fewer bad habits to break and he thinks he has players who are actually on board.

The other think that should help considerably is that Kusleika now has a full staff of 12, counting the freshman level coaches. Last year he had only four for the entire program.

Among those is Joe Szczepanksi, the former head coach at Alta Loma, who will coach quarterbacks. Kusleika will call the offense with Bill Hust serving as defensive coordinator.

“I have been coaching for 25 years and this is probably the youngest team I have ever had,” he said. “But we’re going to get better just because we have more people to help coach.”

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Among the most experience players returning is senior quarterback Cameron Poe, who will be in his third year running the offense.

Others are senior linebacker-running backĀ  Sebastian Soto, senior defensive end Darron Culver, senior lineman Daniel Estrada and junior defensive lineman Enrique Alonso.

Among the newcomers coming up from the junior varsity who will be counted on are junior running back-defensive back John Oquendo, junior running back-defensive back Julio Mixco, senior wide receiver Ernest Orozco and senior center Jorge Navarro.

The new season kicks off on Aug. 28 with the Jaguars traveling to Garey, a team it defeated 16-2 last season.

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Kusleika has challenging task at Ontario

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Earlier this week veteran coach John Kusleika was appointed head coach at Ontario High School. If anyone can turn the Jaguars around, he’s the guy.

Most recently he served as offensive coordinator for long time friend Kurt Bruich at Redlands East Valley. He also served as an assistant at Rancho Cucamonga, as well as at the University of La Verne since his most noteworthy stint as head coach at Alta Loma High school.

What he did at Alta Loma was impressive. In seven years directing the Braves Kuslieka’s teams were 37-36-1 with four playoff appearances. They haven’t come close to sniffing the playoffs since then.

Yep, it’s been awhile since the school won a Baseline League game – 2008 to be exact. But his teams won league games each season.

Most would say the Ontario job isn’t a good one. The track record in football hasn’t been good for awhile. Ron Stocking, who started last season as head coach, wasn’t on staff at the school. And Kusleika won’t be either, at least for now. He teaches at Los Osos. That presents an obstacle in itself.

I always considered him a good coach who makes the most and does a lot with a little. This will be a true test!

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