11/22/10 — Prep football notebook

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Prep football notebook

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 22, 2010 1:46 PM

Misty-eyed, Hugh Martin walked among his players as they knelt for one final post-game meeting. He greeted each senior with a hug, said he would be missed and that the door is always open at North Duplin.

Fighting back tears, but filled with pride, each player said "thank you" in return.

The good-byes occurred two weeks later than expected.

North Duplin started the season 0-4 and no one anticipated a trip to the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-A football playoffs. The Rebels turned their 2010 campaign around, finished 5-2 during the final seven weeks of regular-season action and ended up third in Carolina 1-A Conference play.

Martin's team eliminated Weldon in the opening round of the playoffs and their season concluded with a loss against defending state champion Wallace-Rose Hill on Friday.

"It's just the character of these young men, they just wouldn't quit," said Martin of the midseason turnaround. "They kept fighting, plugging away and doing everything we asked them to do. We tried different combinations of things and finally found a combination on the offensive line and backfield that worked for us.

"They kept believing in what we were asking them to do. It's (the late-season surge) because of them and how they responded to what we were trying to do."

Passing the torch

Five seniors played their final game Friday evening -- quarterback Marcus Kornegay, running back Toderick Gadberry, lineman Daniel Hyde, lineman Justin Carr and lineman Clifford Warren.

The quintet helped lead the Rebels to four consecutive playoff appearances.

Martin hopes their experience and leadership rubs off on a six-member junior class and the underclassmen.

"That leadership passes down to them," said Martin. "They've seen how the seniors have led, what they need to do. They're going to have to grasp that mantel and lead us. There are going to be underclassmen, too, who have to lead us as well.

"Some of our underclassmen are strong leaders, especially several in the sophomore class."

Passing down the work ethic will be key, too.

Martin encouraged each freshman, sophomore and junior to hit the weight room during the offseason.

"Our young guys have been working in the weight room and tend to see quick gains. Now, they've got to push themselves to get beyond those initial gains so we get stronger," said Martin. "We're loaded with freshmen and sophomores. Other teams are going to be in the weight room getting stronger, too. They've got to accept that challenge."

One last thought

Martin's voice cracked and he choked back tears as his team headed to the locker room to gather their things for the short ride back to Calypso.

"They're just a great group of young men to be around. We've not had any school-related issues, anything away from school that's been negative for us," said Martin. "They're fun to be around and they're just a super group. That and seeing them turn their season around when we were sitting there 0-4 and struggling, that's two things I hope we can carry forward from here."