You would have to go back to the 2005 football season to see the last time North Duplin missed the playoffs and the Rebels will be looking to continue to build on that legacy as they head into their 2019 campaign.
In a season that was highly affected by Hurricane Florence, the Rebels still did well enough to secure themselves a spot in the 1A state playoffs. They came up short, however, losing 25-0 to Bishop McGuinness in the first round. The Rebels were led by a strong rushing attack coming from players like Gage Outlaw, Saul Mendoza, Luis Olivos, and Kijah Blow. They were the four leading rushers for the Rebels last season and coach Hugh Martin will be bringing his top three rushers back for the 2019 campaign in Outlaw, Mendoza, and Olivos.
“Fortunately we got those three guys back,” Martin said. “They’ve grown in the weight room and they got a lot of experience playing last season so we’re pleased to have those back, especially running the offense that we run.”
North Duplin runs one of the most complex offenses in football with the veer: a predominantly rushing style of offense that requires the quarterback to make certain reads on each play depending on what the defense is doing. In the veer, running the same play will most likely result in a different read each time. Returning key contributors are set to make the Rebels a tough bunch to stop.
Gerson Marmol is another key cog for the Rebels this season. Marmol moved around on the offensive line last season but this year, coach Martin is keeping the 5-foot-9 senior at the center and linebacker positions. Senior DJ Simmons was one of the wideouts last season for North Duplin but in an offense where passing isn’t at the forefront of the playbook, Simmons’ touches were limited.
Martin says that the Rebels will work Simmons out at running back some as well to help put the ball in his hands and add another key weapon into the flow of the offense.
On the defensive side, the Rebels will be going with a four-man defensive front, which is something they did a few times last year but not often.
Martin says the change comes from having more defensive line-style players than last year. Senior David Fulghum will look to be the leader for the Rebels on the defensive front due to his game experience.
“To get better at what we do from the start, be united as a team and to truly to care about one another is our biggest priority. If we do those things right, wherever that takes us, then we’ll take that,” Martin said. “We’re focused on just improving every day. We have so many returning so we have some strong things to build upon, that’s what’s important to us. We enjoy the support that we get and it’s extra special being at home. We’re excited to get out front of them and play hard.”
North Duplin’s first two games will be at home under the lights at H.E. Grubbs Field for Law Enforcement, EMT and Firefighter Recognition Night. The team’s first regular-season test will be on Aug. 23 when the Blue Devils from South Lenoir come to town. The Rebels’ second game will come on Aug. 30 when they host Northside-Pinetown for Military Recognition Night. Both games are set to kick off at 7 p.m.