10/18/07 — Game of the week part two : N. Duplin at Ayden-Grifton

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Game of the week part two : N. Duplin at Ayden-Grifton

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 18, 2007 2:51 PM

CALYPSO -- Players accepting leadership roles and preventing a loss of confidence concerned the North Duplin football coaching staff in the preseason.

The Rebels' inner faith increased when they defeated long-time archrival Hobbton for the first time since 2001. Nearly a month later, they opened their Class 1-A Carolina Conference campaign with a two-touchdown decision over North Johnston, and snapped a three-game skid in that series.

Second-year North Duplin coach Hugh Martin described those results as "benchmark victories."

"I think those two games were good measuring sticks for us and helped increase our confidence," said Martin. "Last year's success has some carryover I'm sure, but every team is different. Our seniors have been tremendous leaders, stepping up and taking on roles they didn't have to last year.

"We certainly had a lot of questions about that going into the season."

The next challenge comes Friday -- a battle at Carolina foe Ayden-Grifton for sole possession of league's top perch. Both teams are unbeaten in the conference and both are ranked in the Associated Press 1-A prep poll.

Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.

The Rebels (7-0 overall) won last year's meeting by a touchdown in Calypso. Martin dusted off the tape, studied his notes and plans to use a similar strategy to defend the Chargers on both sides of the ball this week.

Ayden-Grifton's wing-T offense has the capability to explode any time with two speedy halfbacks. And should the game turn into a running affair, the Chargers (7-1) will rely on their fullback, who grinds out the good, tough yards needed to move the chains.

"You have to commit people in the interior to stop the fullback and that weakens you on the perimeter," said Martin. "They added an extra perimeter play they didn't have last year, so you have to be aware of that, too.

"Their front four will probably be the best we'll see all year. They come off the ball well ... are strong, physical and hard to block down, kick out against."

In last year's contest, the Rebels controlled possession and committed just one turnover which led to a Chargers touchdown. The defense covered well and constantly forced the backs toward the middle of the line.

"We've got to do the same thing this time," said Martin.

Akeem Cox has emerged the Rebels' top offensive weapon this season. He surpassed the 1,000-yard mark a week ago against Princeton and averages nearly eight yards per carry.

Cox has taken some of the offensive burden off senior quarterback Doug Lloyd, who has benefited behind an experienced offensive line. Lloyd has thrown for nearly 600 yards and primarily uses three receivers -- Chris Graham, Ryan Killette and Robert McCullen.

North Duplin averages 32 points a game and surrenders just 7.4. The Rebels face a Chargers offense that has posted 50 or more points in five outings this fall.

Ayden-Grifton has won seven straight games at home and 21 of 24 overall since 2004. It has two victories in three meetings against the Rebels since the newest realignment in 2005.

But forget all those "extras," says Martin.

"We try not to pay attention to that kind of stuff, but just play who we've got and do what we can to let things take care of themselves," said Martin. "The players know what's at stake. And a lot of high school players never get the chance to play in a game like this.

"We told the players to enjoy it and take advantage the opportunities you get."