11/25/11 — News-Argus Offensive Player of the Year -- Devin Oliver

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News-Argus Offensive Player of the Year -- Devin Oliver

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on November 25, 2011 1:48 PM

Devin Oliver can recall nearly every detail of the moment he first realized he had what it takes to compete as a tailback on the varsity level.

He was a freshman and his North Duplin team was mired in a five-game losing streak. The Rebels trailed 12-7 midway through the fourth quarter at Carolina 1-A Conference foe Princeton.

Oliver's predecessor, Akeem Cox, had just limped off the field following a 43-yard gain. With little time to gather his thoughts, Oliver was suddenly thrust into action. The play call was "47," an outside zone running play. On his first carry of the night, Oliver raced 24 yards to the end zone and put North Duplin ahead for good in a 22-12 victory.

"I remember it like it was yesterday," Oliver said. "I was a freshman and Coach (Hugh) Martin asked me to get in. I was a little intimidated but I knew we needed a score. When I got to the end zone that was the best feeling and it's something I will always remember.

"It let me know that no matter what size you are if you work hard you can be successful. It gave me a lot of confidence."

The Rebels won two of their next three games to finish the regular season and reached the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs. It was that fateful night in October of 2008, that served as the spring board for Oliver's career. The senior rushed for 1,533 yards and 27 touchdowns this season, and concluded his career with 4,617 yards.

Oliver is the 2011 News-Argus All-Area Offensive Player of the Year.

Oliver learned valuable lessons as a freshman while serving as Cox's understudy. Cox ran for 1,729 as a senior in 2008 on his way to garnering News-Argus All-Area Offensive Player of the Year honors. A commitment to the weight room and an understanding of how to read defenses and find running lanes were just a few of the keys to success Oliver gained from Cox.

Oliver and bruising junior fullback Julio Mora served as a formidable backfield tandem this season. Mora kept defenses honest with tough runs between the tackles which opened up running lanes on the outside for Oliver. As opponents began to shade toward the edge to slow down the speedy tailback, Mora was there to break off long runs through the teeth of the defense.

Mora tallied 1,047 yards and 7 touchdowns and joined Oliver as a Carolina 1-A All-Conference selection.

"They were a good tandem to have back there," Martin said. "Julio is over 200 pounds and he's a real physical runner. Things that he could do inside opened up things outside. Some of the fakes we ran with Julio up the middle allowed us in our option game to get the quarterback to the next level and gave us things on the outside.

"Devin faking off things outside opened things up in the middle."

From a five-touchdown game this year against Rosewood, to a pair of scores this season against Princeton that left Martin in awe, Oliver's turned in plenty of highlight-reel moments during his career.

Perhaps none were more important than that run four years ago which started it all.