Getting to know the Xs and Os

Rise and Shine Its Game Time, November/December Cape Cod Life | capecodlife.com

Where none of the league’s participants grew up playing organized football, learning the game’s skills, arcane rules, terminology, and the Xs and Os—the symbols that coaches use to denote offensive and defensive players when drawing up plays on a chalkboard—is arguably their biggest challenge. Most teams employ an approach that incorporates playground-style football (i.e. drawing up plays in the dirt) with a few formal plays such as draws, double reverses, flea flickers, and the Statue of Liberty (a classic misdirection play).

“Some teams’ quarterbacks have wristbands with Xs and Os,” says Bednark. “We have a play we call ’Bama that includes a double fake handoff with the receivers running a crossing pattern, and whoever gets the final handoff throws a bomb down the field.”

Sullivan’s Chaos team has worked for years to perfect—almost—one signature play. “Our team has gotten a lot better at running a reverse,” says Sullivan. “When we first started running it, I don’t know how many times we ran into one another. We still bump into each other once in a while, but we’ve figured it out and gotten a lot better at it.”

Where the teams square off so frequently, tipping off plays is always a clear and present danger, so a poker face—and speaking to one’s teammates in code—can be important. For example, the term “blueberry” has signified a sweet lateral play for Secret Productionz in the past.    

“We play each team every third week, so we have to keep teams off guard and guessing,” Bednark says. “So we like to run similar plays with lots of different options.”

One option players do not have is sleeping in on Sundays due to inclement weather. Other than a nor’easter that canceled play one year, the women of the DWFFL play in all kinds of weather. “We’re not afraid of bad weather,” says Bednark. “It could be rain, sleet, or snow, and we’ll still go out to play.”

One year, during a driving rainstorm, the referees called it a day and went home in the middle of a game. “We stayed,” Handrahan says, “and played a mud bowl.”

And what about when the wet stuff turns to white stuff? “When we first started playing, we actually brought snow blowers and shovels to the field so we could play,” Ciliberto says. “We’ll do penguin dives in the mud; we’re really just a bunch of kids who never grew up.”

To learn more about the Dennis Women’s Flag Football League, visit leaguelineup.com/dwffl. To sign up to play, email dwffl1@gmail.com.

Joe O’Shea is a freelance writer—and a former placekicker—from Bridgewater.