Ontario coaches looking for redemption against Alta Loma

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The football teams from Alta Loma and Ontario will square off tonight at Montclair High School in a Mt. Baldy League game that will have little impact on the standings. But it will have quite the meaning for a couple of coaches on the Jaguar sideline.

Head coach John Kusleika spent seven years the Alta Loma program from 2002 to 2008 and among the players he had then were current San Diego Chargers standout Eric Wedell.

Quarterbacks coach Joe Szczepanski is less than a year removed from his four-year stint as head coach there. He was let go last year after the Braves only finished fourth in the league a year after moving over the Baseline League. The prevailing thought among school officials was that the Braves should have been able to finish in the top three in a league that was far less competitive and it didn’t happen.

Szczepanski compiled a record of 15-25 at Alta Loma but took over after the program had back-to-back 0-10 seasons. The school had a 24-game losing streak in the Baseline League that dated back to the last game of the 2008 season.

Kusleika was only too happy to welcome Szczepanski, who still maintains his teaching position at Alta Loma, to his staff at Ontario.

“I have been a couple of other places since then so it isn’t as big a deal to me,” Kusleika said of facing his former school. “It’s different for Joe because he was just there and he has coached a lot of those kids.”

The Jaguars are 4-4 overall and 0-3 in league play.

The Braves, now directed by much-respected veteran coach Mark Pasquarella, are 3-6 and 1-2 in league play and need to win their last two to equal the record that Szczepanski had at the school last year.

We’ll see how this plays out.

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Mt. Baldy football teams brace for league battles

This could be the best year the Mt. Baldy League has had in football in quite some time.

Why? Well for starters there looks to be a very formidable threat to the Colony throne in the Chaffey Tigers. Last year coach Chris Brown’s team went toe-to-toe with the Titans for a half. Then lack of depth hurt and the Tigers wore down.

Colony graduated 25 or so players from the CIF Central Division winning team of a year ago. So yes the Titans are still good and they have been primed by a tough non-league schedule on which I have harped before. But they aren’t quite as good as they were last year. And the Tigers, led by diminutive dynamo Mikey Dean, are better.

The showdown between those teams is Oct. 30, the next to last week of the regular season. Mark it down!

Second, the teams that have traditionally been at the bottom of the pecking order, namely Ontario and Montclair – appear much improved with both taking 4-1 marks into play. No they haven’t played a challenging schedule but both have still beaten teams to whom they have lost in the past and that bodes well.

Then there are Don Lugo and Alta Loma. Don Lugo has played the toughest non-league schedule outside of Colony so I don’t think they’re as bad as their 1-4 record. I was impressed with how they played in the 22-21 triple overtime loss to Chino and i like what I see in that coaching staff.

Alta Loma? Well the jury is still out and I don’t quite know what to think. I have seen them once, a game they struggled to beat Fontana which was playing with its third-string quarterback.

I have heard great things about first-year coach Mark Pasquarella. But a first year is always a transition year and I try not to read too much into what happens in that first year. So call the Braves a wild card.

I’d say the playoff teams are Colony, Chaffey and Don Lugo – the same three that came out of here last year. But I’m not counting out the other three. If nothing else I think there will be more competitive games this year than ever before.



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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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