Undefeated North Duplin deals Seahawks first loss

Published 12:25 am Saturday, September 16, 2017

CHOCOWINITY — North Duplin had all but won the game when Rebel freshman Saul Mendoza went down and stayed down. His side led, 35-6, with just 24 seconds left to play.

Suddenly it was more about the well being of an opponent than Southside dropping its first game of the season. The Seahawks took a knee, watching on as first responders called for an ambulance for precautionary purposes.

Southside and North Duplin gathered together on the field after about 10 minutes of paused action. Officials called the game, sealing the 35-6 win for the Rebels. Their coach, Hugh Martin, spoke briefly, and his players complimented Southside for never giving up on a play and tackling, among other things.

It was an example of football being about more than the action on the field. The Rebels and Seahawks had been bitter enemies for over two hours. Players were chirping and getting in each other’s faces, but the animosity evaporated given the circumstances.

“That’s what high school football is about,” Southside coach Jeff Carrow said. “We were banged up on both sides. Both teams had some major injuries.

“It’s more than just who wins and who loses. It’s about the battle, and those kids rolling and learning lifelong values.”

WATCH: Southside coach Jeff Carrow breaks down the loss

The beginning mirrored Southside’s win over Gates County a week prior. It got punched in the mouth early on as the North Duplin senior quarterback-running back duo of William Archer and Kenny Sheppard each punched in touchdowns in the first quarter.

“They were very efficient on their offense,” Carrow said. He’s been playing the Rebels since Sheppard and Archer were freshmen. Their offense averaged seven yards per rush attempt.

“… The quarterback, he’s been there four years now. He’s led them the whole way. He’s run the offense to a tee right now with what they’re doing. Hats off to Duplin. They were well-prepared defensively.”

Unlike its last time out, the Seahawks couldn’t answer the call. North Duplin needed just four plays to draw first blood. Southside went three-and-out on its first drive.

Southside needed a personal foul against the Rebels late in the first quarter to move the chains for the first time. On the next play, Demetrius Ebron hauled in a pass from quarterback Will Warren along the left sideline. He made the grab while being tackled and managed to plant his feet in bounds by about an inch. The 27-yard connection set up Hayden Mayo’s short score — Southside’s only trip to the end zone — to cut the deficit to 14-6 with 10:07 left in the second quarter.

North Duplin recovered Southside’s attempt at an onside kick to set up shop seven yards from Seahawk territory. Archer ran for consecutive third-down conversions as the Rebels marched down the field. Southside’s defense, backed down to its own 7-yard line, stood tall, but Archer hit Sheppard in the right corner of the end zone on fourth down to make it 21-6 with less than three minutes before halftime.

It wasn’t the last score of the half, though. North Duplin had a successful onside kick, and Archer eventually pushed through for his third touchdown of the evening. With that, North Duplin took a 28-6 into the locker rooms.

“It was just corrections. Quality teams make corrections,” Carrow said of the focus at intermission. “We did what we could. They were well prepared.”

Southside’s defense limited North Duplin to one more touchdown from Archer in the second half. Still, the Rebels did enough damage in the first half and its defense remained stingy, holding the Seahawks to 2.8 yards per rush attempt.

Mayo led Southside with 62 rushing yards on 11 tries. Ebron had three grabs for 45 yards. North Duplin had Archer and Sheppard combine for 329 yards and all four touchdowns.

Southside’s three-game homestay concludes next week when the Seahawks host 1-A powerhouse Tarboro in their 1-A Coastal Plains Conference opener