FOOTBALL TAB -- Rebels' coaching staff working with several new faces
By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on August 22, 2013 1:47 PM
CALYPSO -- The debate rages on in coffee shops, barber shops and body shops in every small town.
When football season finally comes around, everyone has an opinion.
Should a successful head coach build an offensive system around the talent that he is dealt? Or should the coach simply find a system that he has used in the past and make the athletes learn his way?
North Duplin head coach Hugh Martin has made a career of building his program around his players' strengths and he hopes that 2013 will be another chapter in the Rebels' storied program. For that to happen, Martin knows that a few key variables have to work out just right in his team's favor.
"First of all, we have to stay healthy throughout the season," Martin said after a recent practice. "We have 38 guys on the field, and that is all we are going to have. It's 38 total, not 38 varsity and more on the junior varsity that we can call up during the year."
The past decade at H.E. Grubbs field has been filled with a string of positive campaigns and playoff appearances.
* Doug Lloyd led the Rebels to the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-A state championship game in 2007.
* Akeem Cox emerged as one of the leading rushers in the east a year later before giving way to Devin Oliver for three years.
* Julio Mora and Tyler Royal carried the load this past season as North Duplin emerged as one of the top teams in the Carolina 1-A Conference.
Mora and Royal graduated, which left Martin and his staff finding a way to replace 2,838 rushing yards and 39 touchdowns. While one player is unlikely to fill the void, Martin hopes a host of Rebels can pick up the production this fall.
"We have a number of guys that are working out at quarterback and at fullback in practice," Martin said. "We have some interchangeable pieces, so as a staff we have to decide who fits best at each spot. Seeing the tape from the scrimmage and from our intra-squad scrimmage will go a long way to determining that."
Players like Cedrick Kornegay, James Britt, Tyler Potter and Blake Rhodes will likely be in the mix for playing time at various skill positions. Running back Daron Goodman, who emerged as a compliment to Mora last year, is also back in the huddle for his senior campaign.
Martin focused the past few days on shuffling his offensive line to put his big guys in a position where they can be best utilized.
"One thing we do have is some size up front," Martin said. "It is inexperienced size for the most part, but I have seen the guys who have been out there with the first team really soaking up the fundamentals.
"Once you get the fundamentals in place, the feel for the game from snap to snap will come along."
The Rebels have a strong showing of upperclassmen with 13 seniors and 12 juniors on the roster. It's a stat that can be a little misleading when actual game time is taken into consideration.
"Five of our seniors and four of our juniors have never played varsity football before," Martin said. "On paper we are a veteran team, but when you realize that nine of those guys are new this year, it kind of puts things in perspective."
Several of the Rebels' best athletes will be asked to play both sides of the football. Some will even play special teams, which puts an extra emphasis on preseason conditioning.
"When you have a core group of guys that never come off the field, it is vital that they be ready to go from the first snap of the season," Martin said. "Obviously, as the year goes on we will make adjustments and try to get some of our two-way guys off the field for special teams.
"But at the same time you never want to give up a big play so it's a delicate balance."
North Duplin opens the season at Chocowinity Southside.
The Rebels also play Pinetown Northside, South Lenoir, Dixon and Lejeune before the newly-realigned Carolina 1-A Conference starts play in late September. Newcomers James Kenan, Hobbton and Lakewood replace departed powers Goldsboro and Ayden-Grifton.
The Tigers, Leopards and Wildcats were all formerly members of the Tri-County 1-A Conference. Martin is excited to renew some old rivalries and insists that the teams are familiar with each other despite playing in different leagues.
"We have played Hobbton and Lakewood in the non-conference the past few seasons," he said. "It's been seven or eight years since we played James Kenan, but it will be good to see the community come out for a local game like that."
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