Robert Kistner isn't living in the past.

He led the Hesperia High School football team to a perfect 10-0 regular season last year, but Kistner's facing new challenges as he takes over the brand new Oak Hills High program.

"That 10-0, that's Hesperia's success," said Kistner, who spent six seasons as the Scorpions' head coach. "That's not Oak Hills' success. We had a lot to do with the success. That's not going to be what we (hang) our hat on."
Oak Hills, Hesperia Unified School District's third major high school, opened earlier this month and will begin its own traditions. The 85-acre high school features a new football stadium (which hasn't been officially named yet), 35 acres of grass and a 4,400 square foot weight room.

Most of the students came from Hesperia High, and there may be an adjustment period for the new colors (red and white with black accents) and new mascot (Bulldog).

But possibly a bigger obstacle for Oak Hills in its first season is that the school doesn't have a senior class, leaving the team with a lack of varsity experience. Juniors will move into leadership roles normally reserved for returning seniors.

"It's great that we can be leaders for two years as juniors and seniors," Antwaun Dawson said. "It's great that we get to step up and be leaders."

In fact, Dawson, a junior tight end/linebacker, is the only Oak Hills player that previously started regularly at the varsity level. Dawson rotated in on the defensive line and became the starting tight end at Hesperia toward the end of last season.

Other than that, the Bulldogs have junior running back/free safety Jeremiah Armstead, who played a limited role at running back last season with the Scorpions, and junior right tackle/middle linebacker Aaron Woodard, who played mostly special teams.

"Not too many kids came over with varsity experience," Kistner said. "A majority of guys came over as sophomores. We have really good junior leadership. The good thing about the juniors is that they know how to win. I felt they really brought that onto the football field."

The Bulldogs' offense and defense will be similar to those used by last year's Scorpions. Offensive coordinator Art Rivera and assistants Sam Mangiaterra and Rick Notarianni also came from Hesperia.

Kistner said many of his athletes will be expected to play on both sides of the ball, and competition for starting spots is wide open.

"Every job is up for grabs," Kistner said. "We don't have a returning letterman from last year, so every job is up for grabs."

The stadium grass is not quite ready for action, but the Bulldogs will host their first event, a scrimmage against San Bernardino, on Sept. 4. Oak Hills then opens its season at Rosemead on Sept. 11 and will play its first regular-season home game against Silver Valley on Sept. 18.

"Everybody's been saying, 'get your feet wet,' " Kistner said. "But we want to win them all."

Oak Hills will play a freelance schedule this season before taking Rim of the World's place in the Mojave River League for the 2010-11 season.

Similar to its future MRL counterparts, the Bulldogs will only have a frosh-soph team and a varsity team, but Kistner said they are hoping to finance a freshman squad eventually.

While Oak Hills will likely experience its ups and downs this season, the Bulldogs will not lose anybody to graduation and will add a new freshman class next year.

Said Woodard: "It's nice that you can build your own legacy."

C.J. Daft can be reached via e-mail at christiand@vvdailypress.com or at 951-6275.