Oxon Hill on the fast track to success -- Gazette.Net


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Depending on when one happens to look at Oxon Hill High School football coach Craig Jefferies on the sideline, it's understandable if one thinks he's engaged in a rousing round of charades with his team instead of coaching a game.

He furiously mimics scribbling on a notepad (his left hand serving as the piece of paper). He rolls his wrists as if beating on a drum. He points his arms and wrists in opposite directions, a move that would win him first prize if he were competing in a dance contest that played The Bangles' “Walk Like and Egyptian” on a loop.

What Jefferies is really doing — aside from reviving a program that one season before he took over recorded one win and was shut out five times — is delivering play calls to his Clippers as part of the newly-installed no-huddle offense.

“Between me and the kids we came up with all the signals,” Jefferies said. “Sometimes I might come up with something they think is corny, so then they come up with things they want to do.”

Inspired by what he's learned throughout a longtime friendship with from former University of New Mexico coach and current University of Maryland, College Park offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, Jefferies is pleased with how his players have taken to the hurry-up approach.

“The kids like it,” Jefferies said. “We haven't gotten to the point where we can go turbo fast yet, but it's still a little faster than most offenses.”

Jefferies said he has noticed a significant increase in the number of plays the Clippers (2-1) have been able to run this season when compared to his first year. Speaking of last year, Oxon Hill already has matched its win total from the 2012 campaign and has scored more than half its total points from the year before (78 through three games compared to 124 through 10).

To start every play, the Clippers' offensive lineman rush to the ball after the referee spots it and they take their stance. They don't move until the ball is snapped. Junior quarterback Anthony Dougherty, the running backs and the receivers then look toward Jefferies to watch the play call. Different signals correspond to different numbers in the playbook. The players then turn toward the ball before looking back at Jefferies in case he wants to audible. It's then Dougherty's job (lined up in the shotgun) to verbally deliver the signal to the offensive line using code words he and his teammates developed.

“It's pretty cool,” Dougherty said. “The defense isn't ready for the plays and we catch them off guard a lot. It's great.”

On Oxon Hill's opening drive of last week's 27-0 loss against Henry A. Wise, it was clear the no-huddle still had some kinks to work out. The Clippers were flagged for a false start on back-to-back snaps and there were a number of busted plays. It was also apparent that the tempo and pacing with which Dougherty snapped the ball bothered the Pumas' defense. Wise jumped offsides a staggering five times on the opening drive and the defense was penalized 13 times overall.

“They're very organized and can take you out of the flow of the game,” Wise coach DaLawn Parrish said. “For them not getting in the huddle, you're on the line for a long time while they're communicating.

“[Jefferies] should be proud. Give him a couple more [years] and they'll really be good. They're definitely going to compete and not lay down.”

Jefferies isn't afraid to throw the ball, either — something that hasn't necessarily been a staple of Prince George's County football. But against the Pumas, Dougherty, who said he studies his playbook and hand signals an average of two hours a night, passed an astounding 31 times out of 55 plays.

More than the offense is changing at Oxon Hill. A new school building is currently in use with a massive new stadium not far behind. Jefferies, who led a very successful program at Dunbar (D.C.) for 15 seasons, went 126-48-1 and developed a wealth of future National Football League talent, said he's confident Oxon Hill can turn around for good once the Clippers get that “signature win.”

“It's hard to instill the concept that they can win or they're gonna win,” Jefferies said. “For the last three or four years, they haven't had that. None of these guys on this team have been winners. So we've got to get these guys to believe they can win and go out and execute.”

And, true to form, Jefferies and the Clippers appear to be doing so much faster than the average team.

ncammarota@gazette.net