Coming into tonight’s crucial Carolina 1-A Conference game at Branch Pope Field, North Duplin and Rosewood appear to be heading in opposite directions.

Since dropping their season opener to C.B. Aycock, the Eagles have soared. They’ve won six straight and outscored their opponents 256-47. Rosewood racked up its fourth shutout of the season, 34-0 against Union last week.

Over in Calypso the young Rebels have struggled to find a consistent rhythm on the football field. North Duplin (4-3 overall, 1-3) has alternated wins and losses, and is coming off a 38-14 loss to Princeton.

North Duplin head coach Hugh Martin knows that in order to bring down the Eagles the Rebels have to play to their strengths and avoid game-changing turnovers. He knows time of possession and ball security are two stats that will play a crucial factor.

“We definitely want to use the run game to control the clock,” Martin said. “Turnovers are always a key, and simple mistakes that you may make or may not make could have a difference in the outcome.”

Martin said the Eagles are playing very good football on both sides of the ball. He mentioned running backs Dhmanti Fenty and Michael Reid, and quarterback Will Harris as players the Rebels have to stop.

Rosewood had won three straight games in the rivalry until the Eagles dropped the past two meetings. North Duplin holds a 10-4 lead over Rosewood since 2004.

“We’ve played each other a long time and know each other real well,” Martin said. “We’ve had some real close games over the years that have come down to the last part of the game.

“It’s been a real good series.”

Rosewood head coach Robert Britt said preparing for North Duplin’s triple-option offense is always tough. He knows that even though the conference rival has struggled this season, it still has a potent offense.

The Rebels average 221 yards rushing a game and average 5.2 yards per carry. Saul Mendoza leads the team with 406 yards rushing and four touchdowns.

“We played them a lot so we know what to expect,” Britt said. “We need to take care of the football because you never how many possessions you’re going to get against the North Duplin.

“For us defensively we need to make stops so we can keep them off the field.”

Britt is expecting a big turnout for Rosewood’s next two games. Tonight’s game and next week against Princeton are two of the biggest games in the school’s history.

“In my time here, we’ve never won six games in a row,” Britt said. “So I’m expecting a large crowd. It’s going to be a great atmosphere.”