11/20/08 — Rebels must endure road trip to Robbinsville

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Rebels must endure road trip to Robbinsville

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on November 20, 2008 1:46 PM

Having watched his team battle through adversity all season including a 14-0 first-quarter deficit last week, Hugh Martin hopes a 61/2-hour bus ride and an 11-1 opponent won't phase his North Duplin Rebels.

Sixth-seeded North Duplin (6-6 overall) travels to third-seeded Robbinsville on Friday evening in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-A (small-school) western playoffs.

The Rebels lost starting quarterback Alan Schilling in their season opener, and dropped five straight games at one point this season after going undefeated during the regular season a year ago.

That experience with adversity paid dividends as North Duplin trailed 11th-seeded Alleghany 14-0 in the first quarter lat week. The Rebels pulled within 14-7 before halftime, tied the game in the third quarter and Blake King's blocked punt set up Akeem Cox's game-winning score.

"It's a tribute to them never giving up," said Martin of his team's comeback. "A couple of times this year we've been down and fought back to at least give ourselves a chance. We had some people that made plays for us last week that were huge."

Robbinsville could present North Duplin the stiffest test it's faced all season.

The Knights have won five in a row, average 39 points a ballgame and junior tailback Kurt Odom has rushed for 1,667 yards and 31 touchdowns while averaging 7.5 yards per carry. Fellow junior Blake Anderson shares carries in the backfield with Odom. Despite missing time with an injury, Anderson has compiled 728 yards and six touchdowns on 97 carries.

Junior quarterback Luke Perkins has been efficient when asked to go to the air this season, completing 53 percent of his passes for 909 yards. He has 10 touchdowns compared to just four interceptions.

"Defensively, we can't let them grind away at us," said Martin of Robbinsville's offense. "They have such a size advantage and they can get in a power set, and try to run it at us and control the game."

Cox continues to put up big numbers despite playing through multiple injuries all season. Cox rumbled for 146 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries a week ago. Martin admitted on Monday that a knee injury Cox has battled all season still isn't 100 percent, but that his mobility has improved during the course of the week.

Sophomore quarterback Marcus Kornegay has filled the void left when Schilling went down in the opener and has thrown for over 1,000 yards. He's also earned the freedom to tuck the football and turn up field while running the option.

"We've gone to some more option out of the gun and given Marcus a chance to make his reads," said Martin. "It's hard to simulate that in practice to give him that live read, you really need game experience. Within the last three weeks we've been incorporating that more into our offense and it's just been another decision he's had to make and he's been very good with it."