Perspective shapes whether the past is viewed positively or negatively. At Oak Hills High School, the football program doesn’t hide from the past; they embrace it, hoping to learn and, ultimately, grow from it.
It’s part of what attracted new head coach Evan Dreyer, and made him want to be a part of reinvigorating a program seemingly stuck in neutral for the last decade. Since 2004, Oak Hills is a combined 44-66 on the football field with one winning season.
Dreyer, a graduate of McNicholas High School and Mt. St. Joseph, went 43-19 in six seasons as coach at Western Brown. He’s a natural competitor, and he said before he arrived, from the outside he saw Oak Hills football to be “a West Side community, tough, blue-collar. They work hard and are built on good core values.”
Dreyer said the positives outweighed the negatives in his decision to take the job.
“I think this is a great school district. I wanted my wife, daughter and myself to be a part of it. I wanted to be a part of something new, innovative, something that’s never been done before (at Oak Hills),” Dreyer said.
Dreyer quickly went about educating himself. He said he “went out and tried to talk to as many alumni (as possible).”
As he began compiling his coaching staff, Dreyer said it was important to have alumni on the staff.
“I think it (hiring alumni) had to be done,” said Dreyer. “Alumni need to feel like the program is theirs. I always say our present players, it’s their program but it’s the alumni’s as well.”
Jason Lewis, a 2002 Oak Hills graduate and former offensive/defensive lineman, coaches inside linebackers and special teams. Lewis, who also coached the Highlanders last season as an assistant under Dan Scholz, said he’s optimistic about the program’s direction.
“Right now, when I hear Oak Hills football, it’s evolving. It’s changing in a good way,” said Lewis. “A lot of new coaches, players are buying in and I see a lot more dedication and willingness to come out every day and work.”
Lewis added, “It’s important to remember your past but also know where you’re going. It’s okay to look back. The ’99 season (last playoff appearance) was great, even before that in the ‘50s and ‘60s, we were pretty good. If we build on those things, the positive things from our past, I think that’s important.”
Lewis witnessed a 2-8 team last year. Now, he’s watching a changing regime, and with it comes enthusiasm
“All the way around — practices are more fun, they’re upbeat … it’s fun to be here,” Lewis said. “He’s (Dreyer) a great guy to work with, he’s very knowledgeable and he brings an enthusiasm that hasn’t been here in a long time.”
Oak Hills’ revamped program and new staff will have an interesting debut. They’ll travel six miles down Glenway Avenue and take on the Panthers, a team they haven’t beaten since 1986, in The Pit.
“It’s not our Super Bowl … we think of it as game one. It’s a great rivalry, it’s great for the West Side, Cincinnati and the state of Ohio,” Dreyer said. “I think it’s (playing Elder week one) helping our kids focus when they’re tired in the morning they get up and go.”