Vikings battle Rebels for state title

Published 4:24 pm Saturday, December 8, 2007

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
RALEIGH — For the Plymouth Vikings this is it. This is why they started running up and down stairs during those steamy summer months and haven’t stopped since. This is the reason they weren’t allowed to leave practice until they mastered the game plan — and did all their pushups. Today will present the fruition of all their hard work and nothing will get in their way, except one small thing — the Rebels from North Duplin feel the exact same way.
These team’s thirst for an NCHSAA 1-A state championship aren’t the only thing they have in common. Both arrive at Carter-Finley Stadium unblemished, the Vikings accumulated a 15-0 record, while North Duplin stands at 14-0.
Both are No. 1 seeds in their respective regions, and both tallied incredible point differentials throughout the playoffs.
In their four playoff games, the Rebels have allowed only two touchdowns and have outscored their opponents 118-12. The Vikings fared a bit better, allowing only one touchdown as they have combined to outscore their foes 174-6.
The Vikings and the Rebels both steam rolled their way through the regular season as well, but today, something has to give.
While their philosophies vary, North Duplin and Plymouth have rode the backs of their exceptional line on both sides of the ball, accompanied by the strong play of their offensive and defensive play makers.
However, what may separate the winner from the loser today is something that just can’t be coached.
With both teams crushing opponents on a weekly basis, neither one has faced much adversity this year. The big question is, how will they react if they find themselves on the wrong side of the scoreboard for the first time this season.
If the Vikings want to walk away with a state championship, they first have to stop Akeem Cox. The Rebels’ running back has tallied 1,971 yards this season and is the focal point of their spread-bone offense.
The problem with stopping Cox is trying to get to him. Rebels’ coach Hugh Martin said his line is the backbone of the team, and Cody said North Duplin possesses the best offensive line that his team will face all year.
Rebels’ coach Hugh Martin said he likes to go to a spread formation, with his quarterback calling plays out of the shot gun. Martin likes to run and pass out of that formation, though his playing calling may be a bit limited because of an injury to senior quarterback Doug Lloyd.
Cody and the Vikings are taking the same approach as Martin. North Duplin boosts a staunch defensive line and runs a similar alignment to Plymouth’s 3-5, but Cody said his team won’t deviate from its strategy too much.
Other teams vying for a state title today are James Keenan High School (15-0), who will face West Montgomery High (13-2) in the 1-AA division. South Columbus (15-0) and Lincolnton (11-4) will square off for class AA title, while Reidsville (15-0) will face Shelby (14-1) in the 3-A match up. Competing for the 3-AA crown will be James B. Dudley (12-3) along with Charlotte Catholic (13-2). In the 4-A class, John T. Hoggard (14-0) and Mount Tabor (12-3) will mix it up, while New Bern (13-2) will face Independence (13-2) for the 4-A title.