CALYPSO - Still stinging from a season-opening, shutout loss on the road in late February, good ‘ole H.E. Grubbs Field provided a perfect remedy Thursday evening.
Cheers from North Duplin faithful, a strong blood-pumping’ drum beat from the marching band and the comforts of home settled down the youth-ladened Rebels.
And they responded with a resounding performance.
DuJuan Armwood posted two career highs - 169 rushing yards and four touchdowns - during North Duplin’s 49-16 triumph over Jones Senior.
“A little bit of nerves was going on last week,” said ND senior quarterback Gage Outlaw. “A lot of young people had to play. This week, I feel like they knew what was coming, what a game felt like a little bit. We were home, confident, had a crowd and went out and executed what we’ve practiced all week.”
Barely four minutes after kickoff, North Duplin turned the “0” on the scoreboard into a “7” after a short scoring burst from Armwood.
The freshman got some tremendous support from short-field back Saul Mendoza, a bruising runner who bullied his way through the Trojans’ defense for 61 yards and two TDs on six totes.
Second-stringer Eli Morrisey, another freshman, provided the Rebel’s final score - a tackle-breaking run electrified the sideline and resulted in high-five’s when he returned to the bench.
“That first touchdown helped us in 49 ways, a big confidence booster,” laughed Outlaw. “A lot of the younger kids don’t know what it’s like to score at home, or score period, because we didn’t score last week.”
North Duplin’s defense carried a shutout into the fourth quarter.
The Trojans converted a few first downs, but rarely ventured in the “red zone.” The Rebels’ Landon Kelly and Will Carter each recovered a fumble that squelched two potential scoring opportunities.
“[Defensively] our perimeter play, especially, was better,” said ND head coach Hugh Martin. “Last week, we had some people in new positions who are still learning how to leverage blockers as they come at you. We worked it on practice this week…new drills to re-emphasize it better because we have to coach them better to get them to understand it better.
“I thought that was a key for us because they had a hard time getting outside against our corners and outside linebackers. That was probably the biggest defensive improvement for us.”
North Duplin (1-1 overall) launches its Carolina 1A Conference campaign at Lakewood next Friday. Kickoff is 7 p.m. in Salemburg. The Tigers hold a 9-4 edge in the series since 2007.