Friday, November 16, 2007

North Duplin-Union outlook 07

North Duplin-Union outlook 07
CALYPSO -- Deja vu -- again.

For the second consecutive week, North Duplin is facing a regular-season opponent in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A (small school) football playoffs. The No. 5-ranked Rebels (11-0 overall) entertain eighth-seeded Union (5-7) on Friday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at H.E. Grubbs Field.

Again, familiarity is good.

But when you're facing a team that's vastly improved from early September, preparation becomes more earnest. The Spartans executed their misdirection offense well and upended Hobbton in overtime a week ago.

"They didn't score a lot of points, but they kept the field position in their favor to force Hobbton to make long drives," said North Duplin head coach Hugh Martin. "They're playing really well."

The Rebels won the previous meeting 33-8 on Sept. 7. Martin said his team played solid defense and forced a few three-and-out series. On the offensive side, junior Akeem Cox got the team jumpstarted with a couple of key runs.

Senior quarterback Doug Lloyd received ample protection from the line and completed a few passes to loosen up Union's defense. Lloyd is nearing the 1,000-yard mark for the season.

Martin said the same tenacity is needed this week, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Spartans run a single-wing offense, similar to the old Notre Dame "box" scheme.

"Our people have to recognize what is happening in front of them because it's a deceptive offense," said Martin. "They're disciplined and physical up front. When they run their power (plays), we need to hold our ground and not give (up big gains). They're playing a lot of young, athletic guys.

"They get off the blocks well."

North Duplin posted its third shutout of the season last week and stopped Princeton twice inside the red zone. The Bulldawgs misfired on one series and Ryan Killette blocked a field goal attempt early in the third quarter.

Once he evaluated the tape, Martin saw the "little" things that normally pop up during a game -- missed tackles, a blown blocking assignment, crucial penalties. All those are correctable errors, which need to be minimized in order to advance in the postseason.

"You know it's happening in the game, so you just make corrections with what you see," said Martin. "Even though it's the 12th game of the season, we're constantly trying to recognize what we need to work on and improve those things."

Luckily, the Rebels have avoided any major injuries. Placekicker Junior Guzman has been lost for the season and Brad Rhodes (wrist) is questionable against Union. The remaining players, says Martin, are relatively healthy.

North Duplin has eight two-way starters.

"It's been a long season and we constantly try to be as fresh as possible ... not get worn down physically," said Martin. "We try to cut the amount of time on individual practice sessions and scale back on things that we do."

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 15, 2007 03:25 PM


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