North Duplin seniors get long-awaited win over NJ
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 7, 2007 4:04 AM
CALYPSO -- North Duplin quarterback Doug Lloyd dropped back, looked over the North Johnston defense and lofted a pass to wide receiver Robert McCullen.
Lloyd didn't think he completed the pass. But the Panthers' cornerback got tied up with the Rebels' slant receiver, which left McCullen open on the corner. The 6-foot-2, 204-pound senior made a one-handed grab over his left shoulder and turned the pass into a 51-yard gain.
"Once I threw it, I said 'oh my God, I overthrew him'," said Lloyd. "I don't know how in the world he caught it and I didn't know he was that fast.
Four plays later, Billy Mello rambled in for a 2-yard touchdown and the Rebels eventually claimed a 21-7 victory at H.E. Grubbs Field. Lloyd and his fellow seniors earned their first varsity win over the Panthers in the Class 1-A Carolina Conference opener for both teams.
North Duplin, ranked No. 6 in the latest Associated Press 1-A prep poll, snapped two three-game skids. The Rebels won a conference opener for the first time since 2003, which ironically, was the last time they defeated the Panthers.
"It's been a long time since last year's game," said Lloyd.
The teams combined for 200-plus yards of total offense in the opening half, but settled for a 0-0 deadlock at halftime. The Rebels fumbled their first possession on the Panthers' 6-yard line and didn't get inside the red zone again until the third quarter.
Akeem Cox, one of the area's top rushers, accounted for 82 of North Duplin's 128-yard offensive output in the first 24 minutes.
"Their linebackers were giving us trouble and we were having a hard time getting to the second level," said Lloyd. "The second level, they were slipping through some holes that usually people don't slip through. Their linebackers were quick, saw the alleys real well and we had a hard time picking them up."
Meanwhile, North Johnston (4-3, 0-1 Carolina) punted three times and failed to convert a fourth down late in the second quarter. The teams were nearly even in time of possession, but that drastically changed in the second half.
"We knew we had to get something started after fumbling on the goal line (in the first quarter) that killed us," said Lloyd. "We came out in the third quarter ready to go."
After Mello's score, the Panthers ran just six offensive plays combined on their next two possessions. They didn't touch the ball again until the 3-minute mark of the fourth quarter. The Rebels' second-string defense yielded a meaningless touchdown.
North Duplin controlled the clock for 19 minutes in the second half and 32-plus minutes for the game.
"We had trouble blocking up front," said second-year Panthers coach Tom Nelson. "Our quarterback for most of the night didn't have a whole lot of time to throw. We thought we'd spring someone eventually, but we didn't.
"We just couldn't get anything going offensively."
The Rebels posted their second shutout of the season and collected their seventh consecutive home win. Head coach Hugh Martin credited his front four -- Buddy Grady, Trea Beavers, Chris Warren and sophomore Kyle Herring.
"They were strong ... did a good job of moving, slanting and doing the things we ask them to do," said Martin. "The guys stepped up (even though) they were tired and hurting. They just kept running to the ball and gave a tremendous effort."
Cox (154 yards) accounted for the Rebels' second touchdown, a 6-yard dive in the fourth quarter. Mello provided his second score, a 1-yard plunge, after the Panthers fumbled a kickoff.
North Johnston 0 0 0 7 -- 7
North Duplin 0 0 7 14 -- 21
ND -- Mello 2 run (Guzman kick), 8:52
ND -- Cox 6 run (Guzman kick), 7:52
ND -- Mello 1 run (Guzman kick), 3:11
NJ -- Knight 3 run (Grady kick), 2:00
NJ N. Duplin
First downs 11 18
Rushes-yds 23-50 49-251
Passing yds 107 93
Total yards 157 344
C-A-I 6-14-0 5-9-0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-1
Punts-yds 5-37.8 3-39.3
Penalties-yds 5-25 8-89
RUSHING -- North Johnston -- E.J. Knight 18-48, TD; Wayne Johnson 2-13; Cliff Holloman 3-(-14). North Duplin -- Akeem Cox 26-154, TD; Doug Lloyd 13-70; Billy Mello 8-21, 2 TD; Ryan Killette 1-6; Team 1-0.
PASSING -- North Johnston -- Cliff Holloman 6-14-0 107. North Duplin -- Doug Lloyd 5-9-0 93.
RECEIVING -- North Johnston -- Travis Pope 2-51; Brian Williams 1-23; Pierre Dickerson 1-11; Jermaine Grimes 1-11; Daniel Radford 1-11. North Duplin -- Ryan Killette 1-9; Chris Graham 3-33; Robert McCullen 1-51.
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