When Donte Carter was a youngster, growing up in Jersey City and just beginning his football playing career, he went with his father to watch the NJSIAA state championship games at Giants Stadium.
“I was in fifth grade or so and I remember Hoboken playing for the state championship [the 2005 North Jersey Section 2, Group I game against Verona] at Giants Stadium,” Carter said. “And I remember, as we sat up there in the stands, telling my father that I would love to get the chance someday to play in a state championship game like that. I told him that I made it my goal.”
Turn the clocks ahead seven years and Carter, now ironically a senior at Hoboken High School, has that dream in his sights.
Carter is absolutely hell bent on leading the Red Wings to MetLife Stadium in December.
In fact, he’s so determined that after the Red Wings suffered a heartbreaking three-point loss to Verona earlier this season, Carter went up to Hoboken head football coach Lou Taglieri and made a personal vow.
“I promised him that we would never lose again,” Carter said. “I am trying my hardest to keep that promise.”
So far, so good.
Carter battled a bit of an ankle injury earlier in the season, but lately, he’s been lights out when he touches the ball, much like he was last year when he rushed for more than 1,200 yards and scored 25 touchdowns.
“I had been hurt for a while,” Carter said. “It wasn’t too serious. I just had to get some treatment and I was able to play.”
But Carter wasn’t the explosive threat he was a year ago.
“His ankle was sore, but he fought through it,” Taglieri said. “He’s been getting better and better as the season has gone on. We’ve rested him when we’ve needed to and that’s helped out.”
However, when the Red Wings last took the field October 26, Carter showed absolutely no signs of any ankle injury. In fact, the rejuvenated Carter looked better – and certainly faster – than ever.
In the Red Wings’ 55-7 victory over Jefferson, Carter had 108 yards on just eight carries and scored three touchdowns, while catching two passes for 66 yards and another touchdown.
Needless to say, there was no sign of any ankle. In fact, onlookers – one of which was New York Giants’ general manager Jerry Reese, whose son was the quarterback for Jefferson – said that Carter was the fastest player with the football that they had seen all year.
For his efforts, Carter has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past two weeks. Of course, the local athletic scene was shut down last week throughout the state due to the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy.
Carter knows that his high school football career is winding down and he has to make the most of his last few games.
“I think I’m a better player now,” Carter said. “I’m running with more anger now. Nothing is going to stop me. We’re not going to lose. I’ve been stepping up. Every time I touch the ball now, I know what I have to do. I think it’s a good sign that we’re playing so well now. It’s going to get tougher now, but we all know what we have to do.”
Taglieri believes that Carter is a better player now than he was a year ago.
“He’s bigger, he’s stronger and he’s smarter,” Taglieri said. “He might not have the same stats he had last year, but he’s coming close. He has the ability to take control of the game. He can go into traffic, but once he gets open, he’s gone. He can turn it on like anyone.”
Carter showed that impressive breakaway ability twice against Jefferson, one on a 51-yard run and the other on a 55-yard pass reception. He now has 18 touchdowns this season, coming up on the 25 he tallied a year ago.
“There’s something special inside of him now,” Taglieri said. “You can see signs of it in practice. He’s turning it on when he has to. It makes him a very special player. He’s also a very good receiver, catching the ball out of the backfield. He has good hands and that helps him get into the open field. Once he’s in the open field, he has that special second gear.”
“I like catching the ball,” Carter said. “Now people know I can catch the ball, too. I don’t have to just run the ball.”
Taglieri likes Carter’s approach.
“He has a very good work ethic in practice and the weight room,” Taglieri said. “He’s put together well. You almost expect your senior running backs to do what he’s doing. He’s also doing okay in the classroom, so he’ll be able to play in college.”
That’s Carter’s goal.
“I need to get my grades and [SAT] scores up,” Carter said. “I think I’ll get a shot. I don’t know where I’ll go yet, but if I get my grades up, I’ll go somewhere.”
However, for the past week or so, Carter hasn’t been able to go anywhere. With no power in his home, the Hoboken speedster has turned his attention into a new role – being a babysitter for his two younger sisters, ages 11 and 9.
“It’s been stressful not playing football,” Carter said. “I’ve been sitting in the house with my little sisters, playing cards and little fun games. I don’t like it. I’d rather be playing football. But if that’s what I had to do, I did it. They’re able to listen to me and I have a good relationship with them. But it’s time to play football again.”
The Red Wings are slated to face Union City Sunday afternoon up on the roof of Union City High School in a 1 p.m. game that will mean a lot to Union City’s playoff chances.
The game was postponed from Friday to Sunday because schools like Hoboken had all of their equipment damaged due to flooding. The equipment had to be shipped to Pennsylvania for reconditioning and was slated to return Wednesday in time for practice.
St. Peter’s Prep and Ferris were two other schools that lost equipment due to flooding caused by the storm.
You can be rest assured that Donte Carter will be ready to play for the Red Wings. The babysitting gig was good, but only for a week.
“I want to have the chance to win a state championship this year,” Carter said. “I’ve been waiting a long time for that chance. When you make a promise, you have to back it up.”
We’ll see if the promise holds true come December. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.