Westlake’s Oaks Christian High School, which opens August 28, announced that the Lion would be the school mascot and team nickname.
Only ninth and tenth-graders will grace the hallways, classrooms and athletic fields this year, so it is hard to predict how good the Lion football team will be in five years as juniors and seniors join the program.
One thing is certain, however. OCHS Athletic director Jan Hethcock and head coach Bill Redell have assembled a formidable football coaching staff.
Redell, who played professional football in Canada for seven years, has coached 17 years altogether, including stints in high school, college and the former United States Football League.
At St. Francis High School last year, Redell’s team made it to the CIF semifinals and ended the year at 11-2.
The decision to leave the successful program brings Redell, a Westlake resident, close to home.
"It was an attractive job for me to try to get because number one, I live here, and I believe in what the school is going to try to do. I believe in the Christian values they’re going to try to teach," Redell said.
Although there has been much conjecture about whether or not schools in the Conejo Valley would lose top students and athletes to the new private prep school, Redell said he expects kids from a wide area to opt for Oaks Christian.
"One year Westlake is up and the next year Newbury Park is up, and they’ve got outstanding coaches there, and they’re fine schools," Redell said.
"I think our school will probably pull some kids from those schools, but I don’t think it will be a lot. We’ll pull kids from a lot of different areas. From Encino all the way up to Malibu, all the way to Ventura, let alone the Westlake area."
Redell isn’t sure at which CIF level Oaks Christian will play or how fast the program will improve – the school will be an independent in its first season – but he believes students and their families will have more important reasons than win-loss records when they decide to attend OCHS.
"I think family values, Christian values, will be one of the key areas," Redell added. "I think you can get a good education at a lot of schools, but this school is going to be a unique, private, Christian high school. So I think from that standpoint it offers something different."
The coach predicts it will take three to four years to build a strong program.
Joining Redell will be assistant coach Bob Richards, who left Thousand Oaks High School after more than three decades. Most recently an assistant under Mike Kelly, Richards had won six Marmonte League championships and one CIF title (1987).
The reason why leaving the Lancers was not easy: "Being associated with so many wonderful people there over 33 years and with some great kids that are coming back on the varsity," Richards said.
Richards hasn’t coached ninth and tenth grade-level football since 1968, but he said he has been pleasantly surprised by the effort of the current team members during summer workouts.
"I’ve been absolutely amazed, first of all, at how receptive the athletes are and how quickly they’re picking things up," Richards said. "Whether it’s focus or maybe it’s also intelligence, I don’t know what all of the factors are, but in the six practices we’ve had with the boys at this point, I’ve really seen some tremendous improvement."
The OCHS football field is still under construction but is expected to be in playing shape for the Lions’ first home scrimmage Sept. 1.
The OCHS weight room opened to the players this week.