CONCORD -- If you want to understand Clayton Valley Charter High football coach Tim Murphy, look at his work and listen to his players.
The Eagles' vaunted double-wing shotgun offense and swarming defense have catapulted them to the California Interscholastic Federation Division II Northern Regional championship game. Clayton Valley (12-1) will face Sac-Joaquin Section champion Oakdale (13-1) on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Lincoln High in Stockton.
Not bad for a first-year coach. Taking a team that went 6-5 last season, Murphy's Eagles overran the competition en route to the first North Coast Section title in school history.
Then there's Murphy's charismatic side.
"It's a lot different from playing for other coaches from other sports," Eagles center Justin Rogers said. "He's more intense. He's more into the game. He gets everybody into it, gets everybody motivated to come to practice and win games."
Added two-way lineman Logan Bangert, "Just inspiration. He knows we're good. He knows we can beat any team, and he just believes in us, which is what we need in coaches."
Murphy's Eagles are nearing the Northern California single-season rushing record of 5,549 yards set by Vacaville last year. The Eagles have 5,196. Before last season, the 1999 Ygnacio Valley team, also coached by Murphy, held the record at 5,013.
Clayton Valley, which averages 399.7 yards a game, ran for an astonishing 610 yards in a 47-7 win over Dublin to open the playoffs. They then wore down rival Concord 49-22 and Rancho Cotate-Rohnert Park 35-7.
Before succeeding Herc Pardi at Clayton Valley, Murphy had an 82-39 record at Clovis East with two Central Section championships and six Tri-River Athletic Conference titles in 10 years.
He takes pride in the fact that he has led three teams, Ygnacio Valley, Clovis East and the Eagles, to their first section crowns.
"I've been blessed to have really good kids at all three schools that are willing to work," he said.
Murphy has authored two books and several videos on the double-wing offense and 4-4 swarm defense. He also has connections in Europe; he holds annual clinics for the Gateshead (formerly Newcastle) Senators of the British American Football National League.
Murphy says his offense, a hybrid of formations he's used the past decade, is predicated on faking, timing and misdirection.
"It's a simple concept, but it's not simple to execute when you pull all these guys crossing back and forth and barely missing each other," Murphy said. "It's almost like synchronized swimming. Everybody's got to be off the ball quickly, but once you get it down it's like second nature."
His linemen are known for being undersized, stout and explosive off the ball. Plus, it never hurts to have a marquee running back. Eagles senior Joe Protheroe, who takes most of the direct snaps, has rushed for 2,895 yards and 34 touchdowns.
The Eagles invite opposing defensive linemen to dive to the ground or run slants to try to disrupt their run game, which can remove them from the play and frees up Protheroe for devastating cutback runs.
"The blocking," Bangert explained of the system's success. "There's one person given the ball and six blockers in front of him. If there's one person in front of you, then he's not going to touch the running back.
"Plus, we've got the best running back in the state, which helps a lot too."
Coach: Trent Merzon, 13th year
2012 record: 13-1 (Sac-Joaquin Division II champion)
A closer look: Canepa, a former football player at Cal State East Bay (then Cal State Hayward), has guided the Mustangs to two section titles (2007, 2012), nine Valley Oak League championships and a 129-31-1 record overall as a head coach. Oakdale will counter Clayton Valley's double-wing shotgun offense with a Wing-T. In a 22-9 win over Vista del Lago-Folsom in the section final, the Mustangs had four interceptions and blocked a punt and limited Vista del Lago to 68 yards rushing and 170 yards of total offense. Oakdale fullback Nikk Ryan ran for 170 yards. Oakdale's only loss came in week two against San Diego Section power Oceanside (13-1). The Mustangs allowed just 86 yards rushing in a 42-19 win over American Canyon in the section semifinals, after holding Benicia to 22 yards rushing in the first round. The Oakdale-Clayton Valley winner will face either Serra-Gardena or Edison-Huntington Beach in the state Division II championship game Dec. 15 at The Home Depot Center in Carson.
Visit contracostatimes.com/high-school-sports or insidebayarea.com/high-school-sports on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. for live updates from the Open and Division II regional championships.