11/18/09 — Oliver running strong in NDHS offense

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Oliver running strong in NDHS offense

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on November 18, 2009 1:46 PM

North Duplin will be staying closer to home in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-A (small-school) football playoffs on Friday night.

Relatively speaking.

After a six-hour drive to Cherokee in the opening round, the Rebels will hit the road for a four-hour trip to Elkin in round two.

"All you can do is go where the bracket takes you and make the most of it," said fourth-year North Duplin head coach Hugh Martin. "We try to break the trip up with some activities and get the guys to see some new things."

The long trip a week ago didn't bother the Rebels.

Sophomore tailback Devin Oliver tallied 141 yards on the ground and broke a 34-yard scoring run in North Duplin's 14-7 upset of seventh-seeded Cherokee. Over the past three weeks, Oliver has been one of the most productive backs in the 1-A ranks with 520 yards and six touchdowns.

Not surprisingly, the Rebels won each of the three contests.

"All I try to do is listen to the coaches and do my best to execute the plays that are called," Oliver said after Monday's practice. "I don't really think that I am seeing anything differently. The holes are there and I am getting through the line."

Oliver has etched his name among the area leaders in rushing yards, yards per game and touchdowns this season. The fleet-footed back's rise shares a striking resemblance with his predecessor in the Rebel backfield.

In 2008, Oliver learned the varsity ropes behind News-Argus Offensive Player of the Year Ahkeem Cox. Now, with a healthy body and an offensive line that has found a bit of a groove, Oliver has made the tailback spot his own.

"My teammates come out and play 100 percent every week, and I think that we expect that out of each other," said Oliver. "Every night we go out and give it all we have, and that's all you can do."

Oliver ranks among the top backs in the News-Argus coverage area with 1,259 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Rebels' offense will see a fast and physical front seven versus the Elks.

Martin acknowledged that execution and not trickery would be the key to earning a second-round win.

"At this point in the year you have to do what your team does well," said Martin. "We are putting in a few new wrinkles, but for the most part we are going to do what has brought us here."

That means using quarterback Alan Schilling and his corps of young receivers to compliment the team's ground game. Since becoming the full-time starter, Schilling has been able to keep defenses honest with his big-play ability.

Against Cherokee, Schilling found Shayne Deaver for a 40-yard touchdown early in the game that pushed the Braves' secondary back and opened up holes for Oliver and fullback Julio Mora.

North Duplin will need the same kind of production this week against an Elkin defense that has allowed just 44 points total in its last six games.