North Duplin running backs ready for test
By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on September 29, 2011 1:48 PM
North Duplin head football coach Hugh Martin knows what kind of effort it is going to take for his team to beat two-time defending Carolina 1-A Conference champion Goldsboro on Friday night at H.E. Grubbs Field.
It's going to take improved defense, near-flawless offensive execution and stellar special teams. While that sounds like a tall order, perhaps no other coach in the conference has the skill players in his stable that Martin possesses.
Led by two of the area's top five rushers, the Rebels have shown the ability to put points on the board in bunches. Devin Oliver has emerged the top running back in the News-Argus coverage area over the first six weeks of the season. Oliver has toted the ball 56 times for 583 yards and scored 10 touchdowns.
"Devin has the ability to make things happen on any given play with his speed," Martin said before practice on Wednesday. "In our option offense there are a lot of different ways to get guys involved on the ground and we have been able to get all of our backs in the flow early in games."
Alongside Oliver in the Rebels' backfield, fullback Julio Mora has built a reputation as a punishing physical runner who can run through arm tackles and grind out short yardage. Mora has carried the ball 78 times, gained 540 yards and scored four touchdowns.
Quarterback Tyler Royal is a run-first signal caller in Martin's option system. Coming off a "minor" injury in last Friday's loss to Lejeune, Royal missed practice early in the week, but is expected to be ready against the Cougars.
"Both Tyler and Julio were a little banged up after the last game, but I expect that both will play," Martin said. "Those two guys are competitors and they want to be on the field about as bad as anybody. They mean a lot to us and they are leaders."
Dealing with an injury is tough for any quarterback, but especially for Royal who has to decide whether to hand off or to keep the ball and run on each snap.
"We have to evaluate his injury in terms of decision making as well," Martin said. "If he is tentative or not ready to tuck the football and run we may have to put a fresh body out there."
Perhaps as big as the injury status of the Rebels' backfield is the preparedness of the North Duplin offensive line. Opening holes has been relatively easy for the unit so far, but the Cougars present a unique challenge due to their size and athleticism.
"Those guys are physically huge," Martin said. "According to the roster they go well over 300 pounds in the middle of the defensive line and they have the ability to close down holes quickly and totally disrupt a team's running game."
Goldsboro won last year's meeting between the two teams 62-28 despite allowing the Rebels to rush for 421 yards.
Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. Friday.