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Chargers officially tab Cutcliffe as head coach

The search for Johnny Hill’s replacement is officially over.

Chris Cutcliffe’s recommendation as Oxford’s next head football coach by school officials was approved Monday, making Cutcliffe the 10th coach in program history. It’s the first head coaching job for the 28-year-old Cutcliffe, who spent his first five seasons on the Chargers’ staff coaching wide receivers.

His hire ended a search that lasted more than a month following the conclusion of Oxford’s 2015 season, the last for Hill before retirement. Cutcliffe, one of multiple in-house and outside candidates who interviewed for the job, said he was informed Thursday by Oxford High Principal Bradley Roberson and athletic director Mike Martin that the job was his, but a special-called school board meeting to approve his hiring Friday as well as an introductory press conference later in the day were canceled after area schools were forced to close because of inclement winter weather.

That approval instead came at the school district’s regularly scheduled board meeting Monday night, making a long wait even longer for Cutcliffe.

“It makes you a little nervous,” Cutcliffe said. “You think everything’s going to be fine with the board meeting, but you don’t want to assume anything either. It does make you a little nervous, but it’s definitely a good feeling now that everything is official and good to go.”

Cutcliffe, the son of former Ole Miss coach and current Duke coach David Cutcliffe, is taking over a program for which he used to play. Cutcliffe, a 2005 graduate of Oxford High, played quarterback for the Chargers before going on to serve as a student manager at the University of Tennessee and a special teams intern at Duke and then returning to his alma mater in 2011.

“It’s always been a goal to be a head coach, and it’s something I’ve thought about for a long time,” Cutcliffe said. “My dad’s first head coaching job was at his high school that he graduated from. That was something that I always thought was a cool thing.”

High expectations
Cutcliffe mentioned having a plan to help the players he’s inheriting be successful academically and “grow as young men” when asked why he felt he was the right person for the job, but he’s also well aware of the standard that’s been set on the field by his predecessor.

Oxford made its only four state championship game appearances under Hill, including trips to the MHSAA Class 5A title game in each of the last three seasons. The Chargers are 39-5 over the last three years but are still looking for their first-ever state championship.

“(Hill) set the standard very high at Oxford, but I feel like he’s laid such a great foundation for us here that we can continue to build and continue with that success that he’s had here,” Cutcliffe said.

As for those who may call his lack of head coaching experience into question, Cutcliffe again referenced the one who came before him.

“You have to have your first head coaching job somewhere,” Cutcliffe said. “People may forget that Coach Hill was an assistant coach at Oxford who was promoted to the head coaching role, and obviously that worked out tremendously well for our program. That’s kind of what I would say to that question.”