08/22/11 — FOOTBALL TAB -- Rebels need to finish tackles this fall

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FOOTBALL TAB -- Rebels need to finish tackles this fall

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on August 22, 2011 1:47 PM

Fixing one glaring weakness has been the focus of North Duplin High School's early football practices.

The inability to tackle and finish plays on defense cost the Rebels multiple games in 2010 and head coach Hugh Martin certainly has not forgotten any of those plays.

"That is the biggest thing we have to get fixed during these practices, plain and simple," Martin said. "We have to do a better job of getting people to the ground when we get a chance to stop them."

So far, the 43 players that Martin and his coaching staff have on the field have heard the message loud and clear. The Rebels look focused and appear ready to take a step forward in the Carolina 1-A Conference ranks.

North Duplin finished 4-7 in the regular season and picked up a playoff win over Weldon before bowing out against Wallace-Rose Hill in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-A small-school playoffs.

Despite the feeling that the team is ahead of schedule in its fall workouts, Martin knows that there are still a lot of questions to be answered once the first whistle sounds Friday evening. The coach will be anxious to see how the tackling instruction plays out on the field as well as how his stable of young skill players handles being thrust into the spotlight.

Tyler Royal and Ryan Wolfe are battling for the starting quarterback job and both have shown flashes of brilliance, but lacked overall consistency. Wolfe saw action as the starter in one game in 2010 when first-string signal caller Marcus Kornegay was out due to injury. Royal also took a few snaps last season in a reserve roll. The two have been neck-and-neck throughout the preseason.

"Both of those guys have come in and competed to the best of their ability," Martin said. "And right now, it is too close to make a decision. Neither has really stepped up and seized the job, but it's because they both have been good at different times."

A pair of familiar faces in the backfield of the Rebels' triple-option offense should help whichever quarterback gets the job to adjust quickly. Fullback Julio Mora and tailback Devon Oliver are set to provide a stellar rushing attack for the second consecutive season.

Mora, who runs with a bulldozer's ferocity, will handle the short-yardage duties. Oliver, a Ferrari by comparison, looks to improve upon a junior season that featured 1,119 yards on the ground and nine touchdowns in just 10 games.

"Those two guys are both really good examples of what hard work can do for you on the football field," Martin said. "We know that other teams are going to be keying on them so we have to do a good job up front with our blocking assignments, and a good job in the huddle of mixing up the play selection."

North Duplin's offensive and defensive lines both boast good size, but lack any substantial varsity experience.

"We have some big guys in the trenches that are good young players," Martin said. "The big thing will be getting them to understand their assignments and adjust during the game itself."

With the team's numbers up across the board the development of depth on the defensive side of the ball should help take some strain off of the guys who go both ways. Having fresh bodies to run on the field in the second half of games will undoubtedly lead to more stops.

North Duplin opens the season Friday at Southside.