11/30/06 — Game of the Week -- Trojans, Tigers face tough tasks

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Game of the Week -- Trojans, Tigers face tough tasks

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 30, 2006 1:48 PM

First-year head football coaches Hugh Martin and Ken Avent Jr. sound as if they've viewed the same videotapes during the past few days.

The duo described their respective opponents as diverse, aggressive and quick.

And each agreed they've got tough assignments for Friday.

North Duplin, directed by Martin, faces defending state champion Elkin in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A (small-school) western title game. James Kenan, led by Avent Jr., plays host to East Bladen in the 1-AA (large-school) eastern championship.

It's the second time since 2001 -- and third overall since 1960 -- that two Duplin County schools have advanced to the regional final in the same season. Kenan's last regional appearance was 1990, while North Duplin played for the east crown in 2003.

Elkin is making its fifth consecutive trip to the western final.

"I think a lot of what they've done speaks for themselves," said Martin. "In the games we've seen (on tape), they do a great job of creating turnovers and taking advantage of mistakes other teams make.

"Unlike some teams that are one-dimensional, they're multi-faceted and do things quite well."

The Bucking Elks, ranked No. 4 in the final Associated Press prep poll, average 34.6 points per game and face a Rebel defense that's been tight-fisted in the playoffs. North Duplin has shut out two of its last three opponents and surrendered just one touchdown in the postseason. The Rebels have the state's 18th-best scoring defense (10.5 points) and have given up one touchdown or less in nine games overall.

Martin's team has held six of its last seven opponents to less than 200 yards of total offense per game.

"We need to do some of the same things we've been doing," said Martin. "We have to contain their speed and not let them get outside. Our defense has to get to the point of attack quickly and we need to fill the inside lanes with our linebackers.

"They do a great job with their play-action pass, so you can't commit totally to stopping their run."

Elkin quarterback Tyler Transou has thrown for nearly 2,000 yards and 30 touchdowns in 14 outings. Fullback Dustin Miles, a NCPreps.com all-state selection last season, has rushed for 2,054 yards and 27 touchdowns.

"They're different from any offense we've seen all year ... probably the most-diverse offense we've seen," said Martin. "Their quarterback is great running and throwing; executes the offense well. The tailback is real good at running the zone plays. He can cut to the inside or outside and has great field vision."

Elkin is pretty good defensively, too.

The Bucking Elks (11-3) have allowed one touchdown or less in four outings this season and have posted two shutouts. They have the state's 16th-best scoring defense at 9.3 points per game.

North Duplin quarterback Doug Lloyd and senior tailback Michael Schilling have combined for 3,000-plus yards of total offense. The Rebels have outscored the opposition 62-6 in the playoffs.

The fourth-seeded Rebels (11-2) controlled time of possession in last week's upset of top-seeded Cherokee.

"Defensively, they're very aggressive and attack the line of scrimmage," said Martin. "They put a lot of people in the box and force you to throw the ball quick. Their defensive line reminds me a lot of Ayden's defensive line in terms of how they attack things up front."

Notes: North Duplin is 2-5 all-time in regional title games, including a 1-2 mark in the west. ... Elkin has won 11 straight after forfeiting its first three games of the season for using an ineligible player. ... The Bucking Elks have won 68 of 78 contests in the last five year combined and claimed three state championships.

East Bladen at

James Kenan

Speed, according to Avent Jr., is East Bladen's top strength.

He and his staff have been trying to simulate that speed in practice and ironically compares the unbeaten Eagles' athleticism to Wallace-Rose Hill. East Bladen eliminated W-RH from the playoffs two weeks ago.

"We're not really changing anything defensively, but just trying to emphasize how fast they are to our players," said Avent Jr. "Our guys have seen the film and know what to look forward to Friday."

The top-seeded Tigers, ranked No. 2 in the final Associated Press prep poll, have the state's fifth-best scoring defense (6.9 points). They've allowed one touchdown or less in 10 games and notched three shutouts, including last week's 7-0 conquest of Pender County.

Offensively, the second-seeded Eagles present a challenge for the Tigers. They will switch from the misdirection wishbone to the power I to the shotgun -- sometimes during the same series of downs. Avent Jr. said they usually employ their wishbone scheme inside the red zone, and utilize either the I or spread formation in the open field.

East Bladen's top rusher is Donovan Richardson, who has piled up nearly 1,500 yards and 26 touchdowns in 13 games. Quarterback Domiano Whittington has thrown for just under 1,200 yards and 16 touchdowns.

The Eagles average 36.6 points per game.

"They're pretty well-balanced," said Avent Jr. "We have to really get to the ball this week because they've got the potential to break one any time. Your secondary has to have a good week because they're going to throw it.

"That keeps you spread out because you can't concentrate on stopping the run."

Meanwhile, East Bladen (13-0) has the state's 15th-best scoring defense (10.0 points) and has held opponents to one touchdown in eight games this season. Standouts include Mitchell Johnson (five fumble recoveries) and Jahreal Cromartie (13 sacks).

James Kenan collects 26.5 points and close to 300 yards of total offense each game. Brandon Satchell and Stedman Mathis have emerged the Tigers' top rushers, while quarterback Sean Jones has played like a veteran in Avent Jr.'s multiple-look offense.

The Tigers committed two first-quarter turnovers and failed to score three times inside Pender's 30-yard line last week.

"Two drives stopped because we fumbled it and the drive before the half, they stopped us at the 1," said Avent Jr. "We definitely can't do that this week. If we lay it on the ground, our chances are not going to be good.

"If we play well, it ought to be a good game."

Notes: Avent Jr. is taking his second team to a regional final. North Johnston lost to W-RH a year ago. ... James Kenan is making its fourth appearance in an eastern final, including 1984 when it was the Division II east champion. ... Duplin County teams are 4-10 in regional finals since 1972, including a 4-5 record on the 1-A level. ... East Bladen is 1-2 in regional title games and tied Jamestown Ragsdale for the 3-A state championship in 1973.