As two old rivals prepare for their annual late-season clash, it seems fitting that the 50th installment of North Duplin versus Rosewood comes with major implications.
The Rebels (6-2, 1-1 Carolina 1-A) and Eagles will meet tonight at 7 p.m. at Branch Pope Field, as the game has been moved up due to rain being in the forecast for Friday.
The game can be heard locally on FM 98.3 WGBR, and online at Goldsborodailynews.com.
Rosewood and North Duplin first met in football in 1973. The Rebels lead the all-time series 29-20. The Eagles have won eight of the last ten meetings, including five in a row. The Rebels last win in the series came in 2017. Rosewood defeated North Duplin 45-8 last season.
The Eagles are 20-2 against Carolina 1-A Conference opponents since 2018.
Rosewood enters tonight as the only team unbeaten in Carolina 1-A Conference play. North Duplin, Lakewood and Hobbton are each 1-1 against conference opponents.
The final two weeks of the regular season will not only determine who wins the Carolina 1-A Conference championship, but it will also impact seeding in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association state playoffs that begin on Nov. 3.
With all due respect to every other team on the Rebels’ and Eagles’ respective schedules, tonight will almost certainly present each team with the best opponent they’ve faced all season.
Both Rosewood and North Duplin prefer to lean on their senior running backs, and the offense that can avoid third-and-long situations, very well may find itself enjoying a pivotal conference win.
The Eagles (5-3, 2-0 Carolina 1-A) began last season 1-4, before reeling off nine consecutive wins to reach the 1-A East finals, where they lost at Tarboro. First-year head coach Josh Smith is confident that experience will pay dividends as his team prepares for a critical two-game stretch to close the regular season.
“I think starting 1-4 last year the guys understand the process of what we like to do,” Smith said. “We like to be clicking on all cylinders towards the end of the season. The guys are really taking it in stride during (each phase) of the season and understanding what our goal is. The guys understand what it’s like to practice in November and I think it makes them hungry. They just know what to expect. They’ve been able to keep their feet to the fire, and keep doing what we’ve been doing over the last couple of years, and that’s play Rosewood football.”
During its current five-game winning streak, Rosewood has outscored its opponents 183-62, and has scored 30 or more points in three of those five games. Senior running back David Lamm leads the Eagles with 1,017 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Lamm averages 127 yards per game and 6.7 yards per carry. In the last three games, Lamm has rushed for 453 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Senior receiver Micah Cox has caught a team-high 26 passes for 469 yards and five touchdowns.
“I think it’s about understanding the task that each one of our guys have,” Smith said. “I’ve mentioned this before and starting out with four new offensive linemen, and we had try to figure some things out and put some pieces together, to get us to where we are today. But also, we’ve protected the football. We preach every day about making the most of every opportunity. We’re healthy, and I think all of those things have contributed to our success over these last five weeks.”
Defensively, Rosewood has held its opponents to 12 points a game during its current five-game winning streak. The Eagles have held five of their eight opponents to 14 points or fewer. Rosewood can expect to get a heavy dose of the run against a North Duplin offense that has completed just six passes this season.
“We talk all the time both offensively and defensively, especially defensively, that the defense is like a puzzle,” Smith said. “Everybody has a piece, and if you try to be somebody else’s piece, it takes away from your responsibility. I think the guys are doing a better job of communicating. They are really buying into the role that they have on the defensive side of the ball, as well as communicating.”
The Rebels enter tonight having won four of their last six games. North Duplin’s run-oriented offense averages 34 points and 276.4 yards on the ground per game. Senior running back Dujuan Armwood leads the Rebels with 1,043 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns.
“Dujuan is a phenomenal athlete, but he’s also a really good running back,” Rebels’ assistant coach Brad Rhodes said. “He has outstanding vision and he runs tough every single time he gets the football. Sometimes, we don’t necessarily open it up the way it needs to be up front, but he finds a way to get it done anyways. That’s a huge part of his game is making us look good, even when we’re not blocking like we’re supposed to. He’s really good about being patient and letting the play develop and following his linemen through the holes. We’re very fortunate to have him running the ball the way he is right now.”
North Duplin’s defense is giving up just 12 points a game, the fewest allowed by any Carolina 1-A Conference team. The Rebels have held four of their eight opponents to 13 points or fewer. Sophomore linebacker Ethan Turnage leads the Rebels with 65 tackles.
“You look at our (defensive) front, and we’ve got some nice size up front,” Rhodes said. “We’ve got a nice mix of strength and athleticism up front. They’ve done a great job and Coach (Daniel) Cates the defensive line coach, has done a fantastic job getting those guys to understand what they’re doing. On the back end, we’ve got some guys that run well and like to make contact. It’s all about eye discipline and as long as we continue to drive that home with those guys on the back end and making sure their eyes are where they need to be, they give us a good chance of slowing people down.”