08/21/08 — Football preview: North Duplin

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Football preview: North Duplin

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on August 21, 2008 1:35 PM

The swagger is back in Calypso. North Duplin carries momentum into the 2008 season after playing for the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A (small-school) championship a year ago.

The only problem is, just six starters return to defend the program's Conference Carolina crown.

"Losing as many starters as we lost, we're trying to fill those gaps," said third-year Rebels head coach Hugh Martin said. "We're still in the process of figuring out who can do what for us. Last year was a tremendous experience for us.

"(But) it's a new year, so we have to start over and see what we can do this season."

Spoiled for two seasons with experienced and skill veterans, Martin must rebuild with young players who finally have the chance to prove themselves. Their wait on the sideline is over and know that a passive playing attitude won't be accepted.

After all, North Duplin has prevailed in 18 of its last 20 regular-season contests and logged 25 victories during Martin's tenure as head coach. That includes a 9-1 record against conference opposition and a 7-2 mark in postseason play.

"It's a group that now has a chance to step out ... accept the responsibility and become leaders in the program," said Martin. "They're rising up to that."

Back on offense is senior Blake King (5-foot-11, 195 pounds), senior Xavier Lee (6-0, 215), senior Quentin Graham (5-11, 173), Akeem Coxand part-time starter Alan Schilling. Cox (5-7, 155) emerged the featured back after an early-season, breakout performance against Jones Senior.

A junior, Schilling (5-8, 170) assumed quarterback duties when Doug Lloyd broke his ankle in pre-game warm-ups in the regional final against Lakewood.

"He did a tremendous job for us," said Martin. "In the state championship game, he made some good decisions on the option. He's matured even more physically and worked hard in the weight room.

"We've got to develop across the board with the offensive line."

Don't expect the same ball-control offense that sent opposing defensive coordinators searching for Advil in the medicine cabinet last season. A grind-it-out offense controlled the time of possession nearly more than 30 minutes a game in some instances.

The Rebels will keep the same offensive set and Martin contends that avoiding falling behind the chains each play will be key.

"We'll see what the defense has and see what we can do well against it," said Martin.

North Duplin's defensive scheme (3-5-3) will look the same with new personnel.

Again, Martin isn't sure if the defense can duplicate its effort from last year. Once the offense created a comfortable margin, the Rebels hardly allowed opposing teams to sustain drives.

"There is always pressure on you defensively, said Martin. "You can get in trouble real quick by not being sound or physcial up front, too. We've hit more in the preseason this year than the previous two years.

"I would love to play that type of defense again, but we'll see what we can do."

A hard-working group that's developed quiet leadership, Martin says the 2008 team has one thing in its favor. Back-to-back playoff appearances extended the season and gave younger players a chance to get more repetitions in the Rebels' option offense.

While there has been a learning curve, Martin is optimistic.

"They know the things we ask them do," said Martin. "Now they have to step in and get it done during game situations. Games are such a difference pace.

"The players will have to make adjustments of what we do Monday-Thursday (in practice) and carry that over into Friday."