08/09/18 — PREP FOOTBALL: Rebels' Martin faces unique challenge

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PREP FOOTBALL: Rebels' Martin faces unique challenge

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on August 9, 2018 5:51 AM



CALYPSO -- North Duplin never wavered from its ambitious goal of winning a state championship in 2017.

It came close to hitting that mark.

After a brilliant 14-1 campaign that ended with a heart-wrenching loss to Cherokee in the state finals, the Rebels face a different challenge in 2018.

North Duplin head football coach Hugh Martin has to replace 14 starters.

More than 90 percent of the team's offense graduated.

Six returning seniors must take ownership and help continue a winning culture that exists at the tiny rural school with a storied tradition.

"It's a new challenge going into this year," said Martin, who has fielded Carolina 1-A Conference championship teams each of the past two falls.

"The last two years we've had more players coming back in terms of game experience, but with this group, there is going to be less game experience going into the season. This one is more unique."


A wider mix of ages dots the ND roster with 16 juniors, 12 sophomores and 11 freshmen.

Diligent efforts in the weight room prepared them for a spirited spring practice and summer workouts.

"Spring tends to be a lot of schematic stuff that we do," Martin said. "We try to come out of it having a good understanding of how we want our offensive plays executed, how we want our defensive people to react."

The philosophy hasn't changed.

Opposing defensive coordinators will still have to scheme against the Rebels' patented run-oriented offensive package.

Martin wouldn't have it any other way. His teams have been infamous for putting together yard-chewing, time-consuming drives that -- on occasion -- have lasted an entire quarter or longer.

It's an intangible pivotal to North Duplin's success.

"With this team we have to develop a couple of things," Martin said. "Sticking to the plan that we believe in throughout a game and not getting away from the fundamental things that we want done whatever the score may be.

"We need to figure out where the players need to be and being flexible with that. That's going to be key so we see how they react during practice and game situations."

Martin says it boils down to trust.

The players must believe in what the coaches are teaching and find a degree of confidence so they can sustain consistency on both sides of the ball for four quarters.

It won't wholly happen in practice.

It comes from getting reps in live-game situations.

"With youth generally comes errors and mistakes, and we're going to have to live through those," said Martin, whose team has made 18 consecutive postseason appearances.

"We need to stay focused on how we want to play the game. I think they're smart enough to realize they're going to be a different team, but they're going to know our expectations of going out and getting better every day through practice."

That's Rebel football.