Rebels, Vikings take similar paths to finals
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on December 7, 2007 1:48 PM
CALYPSO -- North Duplin and Plymouth seemed to follow the same formula to the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A (small school) championship game.
Both teams finished below .500 two years ago.
Last season, the Rebels stumbled in the western regional final, while the Vikings lost in the second round of the eastern bracket.
One year later, the two unbeaten programs have reached the ultimate level with the penultimate goal in sight. Ranked among the state's top five teams in the final Associated Press prep poll, the Rebels (14-0 overall) and Vikings (15-0) square off Saturday morning for the title at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh.
Kickoff is 11 a.m.
"They've got a tremendous work ethic and have done everything we've asked them to do from the time they were in junior high to right now," said North Duplin head coach Hugh Martin. "They come out for (workouts) after the spring sports season is over, even though most of them play three sports. They're right there doing things to try and make us a better football team, and a better football program."
Robert Cody understands Martin's viewpoint.
Before his arrival, the Vikings lost 59 of 60 games and couldn't maintain any consistency in the football program. Cody helped establish a parks and recreation department, which instituted flag football.
The corps of experienced players Cody put on the field this season were the first group to begin playing flag football at either five or six years old. They stayed together through middle school and junior high, and now have a chance to bring home the town's first-ever football championship.
"I think the community can feel pretty good about this team because somewhere along the line they've touched the lives of each one of these kids," said Cody, who is enjoying his most-successful season in 12 years at the Albemarle Conference school.
Each team is equally good -- on offense and defense.
North Duplin averages 32.6 points a game and has junior running back Akeem Cox, who has rushed for nearly 2,000 yards this season. Meanwhile, Plymouth boasts a duo of 2,000-yard backs -- Tobias Clagon and Andre Mitchell -- who have combined for 45 touchdowns in its Wing-T scheme.
The Rebel defense yields 6.1 points per game and has surrendered just two touchdowns in the postseason. The Vikings allow 3.9 points and have allowed one touchdown in the playoffs.
"Watching the North Duplin film, they're really good on the offensive line," said Cody. "They pull the center and guard, and you don't see that much. That's some sharp stuff and you can tell they're well-coached.
"I think we're going to have two good offensive lines going against each other."
On offense, the Vikings will counter with a big offensive line that's played together 36 consecutive games -- a rarity on the high school level. The smaller-sized Rebels must play disciplined against the misdirection offense and prevent the Vikings from getting past their second level of defense.
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