08/03/13 — Young, enthusiastic Rebels work out in rain

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Young, enthusiastic Rebels work out in rain

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on August 3, 2013 11:04 PM


CALYPSO -- Drenched from head to toe from a late-afternoon thunderstorm, the young and exuberant North Duplin football team went about business as usual.

About 40 players have reported for three practices, which have followed the mandatory conditioning period set by the N.C. High School Athletic Association. The group's progress has pleased head coach Hugh Martin and his staff.

"The practices have been real good, a great start," Martin said. "We told the guys they've really come out well these first three days (and) we've been real pleased."

The Rebels, though, have a lot to learn this season and there were notable faces missing among the group, particularly their two offensive players from 2012.

However, the returnees appeared a little more mature and anxious to do the necessary job in preparation for their season opener on Aug. 23. Some were forced into starting roles after injuries sidelined key players a year ago.

"Those injuries forced some younger players to get experience," Martin said. "We've got some young men playing football for the first time ever. They're eager to learn, excited to be out here with us. I think we'll be a team that will progress as we go (along).

"We'll know more when we get to hitting (next week) and figure out where to put them. We'll work with them when we get them in those spots."

North Duplin endured a season-ending loss in opening-round play of the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A (small-school) playoffs last season. The Rebels ended the year 7-4 overall.

The bittersweet defeat has motivated the returning starters.

But Martin insists the loss is not the tool he's using to inspire the team as it heads into the newly-realigned Carolina 1-A Conference. Goldsboro and Ayden-Grifton, which combined to win the last four league champions, have moved up to 2-A.

The two juggernauts will be replaced by three former Tri-County 1-A programs -- Hobbton, Lakewood and perennial powerhouse James Kenan.

"What this team is going to do will be determined (in practice and on the field)," Martin said. "The returning players, they've set goals for themselves to advance further than last year. What you do in the offseason, in the weight room and during the summer ... all those things factor into how your season goes.

"Our approach is to take it one game, prepare the absolute best that we can and do the same for the next (game). We're not going to treat one game different than the next."