Rebels have date with state champs
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 17, 2010 1:47 PM
Nothing to lose speeches have never been part of Hugh Martin's coaching philosophy.
And North Duplin is facing a tall task Friday evening. The Rebels (5-7 overall) travel to defending state champion Wallace-Rose Hill, the overall No. 1 seed and winner of 24 consecutive contests.
It's the 18th installment in the series, but the first-ever meeting between the county rivals in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A football playoffs. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. at Thell B. Overman Field.
"It's a challenge coaching-wise to get prepared for them," said Martin. "(Plus) going and playing in the atmosphere we're going to have. It's an exciting thing to be a part of and that's how we look at it. I think in my 26 years of coaching, this is the second time I've had a team play against the No. 1 team in the state.
"You've got to play the game on the field ... see what happens."
The Rebels have won three consecutive games, a streak that started just three weeks ago at Carolina 1-A Conference rival Rosewood. Martin's team followed that road victory with a triumph over Spring Creek and an opening-round conquest of Weldon in the postseason.
A switch in offenses and the emergence of Julio Mora has led to North Duplin's recent success. The Rebels are beginning to grasp the triple-option scheme, while Mora has played strong in the last month to help compensate for the injured Devin Oliver.
Oliver re-aggravated an ankle injury last week and has been hobbling in practice. His status against the Bulldogs hasn't been determined, while Mora is also nursing an injury he suffered in the same game.
Mitchell Thigpen didn't play against Weldon due to a shoulder injury. That created depth problems at corner and slot.
"We've got little bangs and bumps," said Martin. "It's been a long season."
North Duplin can expect a physical contest this week.
Wallace-Rose Hill employs a wing-T offense that averages 44.7 points a game and has surpassed the 35-point plateau on nine occasions. The Dogs usually start quickly and don't relax until the outcome has been decided.
Senior Dawan McKenzie (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) runs the misdirection offense and usually hands off to junior back Omar Carr, who has rambled for nearly 1,500 yards this season.
"They get off the ball real quick, make their pulls and traps for their backs who are fast," said Martin. "When they hit a crease, they put pressure on your defense. We've really got to tackle well, especially in the open field if anything breaks loose from you up front.
"They have the ability to to score from any point."
Martin says ball control will be important against the Dogs' eight-man front. Wallace likes to contain the opposing team's running game by getting its defensive ends to turn the backs inside toward the linebackers.
Short-yardage plays, minimal mistakes and consistently moving the chains will also determine North Duplin's success.
"Performance-wise, we have to go out and give everything we've got," said Martin. "If we don't, we're not going to be as successful as we could be."
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