COLLINGSWOOD – Starting quarterback. Check.
Starting safety. Check.
Punter, kicker and team leader. Check, check and check.
Carl “CJ” Carter is tasked with many roles for the Deptford High School football team and he performs them all while never leaving the field during the 48 minutes of play.
“He’s the glue of our football team,” Deptford head coach Patrick Landis said about his senior Swiss Army knife-type player. “He’s one of our better athletes and we lean on him to do a lot of things.”
The 6-foot, 185-pound Carter showed all of those abilities when he helped guide the Spartans to their first win of the season – a 27-14 victory at Collingswood on a damp, misty Friday night.
Carter ran for a touchdown, threw for a score, picked off a pass on defense and threw another TD off a fake punt play. For the season, he has eight total touchdowns – four through the air and four on the ground.
“We needed this,” Carter said about the win that lifted Deptford to 1-4. “We had our best week of practice and we were laser-focused.”
Carter’s workload was increased a couple weeks ago when the team suffered several injuries in the secondary. That’s when the coaching staff called No. 4 to take over at safety.
“I’m willing to do whatever it takes, I want to be versatile, so I was definitely ready to play safety too,” Carter, who is a two-year captain, said. “I played safety as a sophomore when I was the backup quarterback, so it wasn’t a big adjustment at all.
“We had three guys in the secondary, they said ‘CJ, you have to go in.’ I was ready. I got my feet wet the last couple of games and now I’m really feeling comfortable back there.”
And does he feel comfortable playing every minute of the game?
“Those summer workouts, we’re so well-conditioned right now because of them,” said Carter, who threw for 981 yards and 11 touchdowns last season in his first year as the starter. “It’s not a problem for me at all (to play 48 minutes).
Carter delivered several big plays in the game, but it was a perfectly executed trick play off a fake punt that produced a touchdown that put Deptford up 27-7 late in the third quarter. Carter connected with sophomore Kaden Roane on the scoring play that covered 40 yards.
“I knew it was going to be there,” Carter said. “We just recently put the play in there and have been working on it.”
Carter’s best, and more important, work has come in the classroom where he carries a 3.9 GPA and is a member of the school’s National Honor Society. He wants to play football in college and would like to study business/marketing.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, one Spartan could be heard yelling “We won!” as they got ready for the handshake line.
There was certainly a feeling of relief on the Deptford sideline was the team captured the elusive first win of the season.
“I feel great for the kids,” Landis said. “They went through a couple of tough weeks (a 14-13 loss to Audubon before two lopsided losses to Woodstown and Atlantic City). Our schedule isn’t for the weak hearted. Week in, week out, we’re facing well-coached and physical football teams, but we’re getting better.
“We only returned two starters from last year, so we’re young. We’re getting some guys back from the injuries and others are able to play, so we hope to get this thing rolling.”
One of those players was sophomore Ahzeer Pagan, who made his Deptford debut in stellar fashion. He scored the Spartans’ first TD of the game with a 2-yard score. The transfer from Camden Catholic had four catches, including a nifty grab off a trick play in the first quarter that set up his TD run and another on a clutch third-down conversion.
Collingswood star Shakur Carter left the game in the second half with an injury and didn’t return. His six interceptions (entering the weekend) led South Jersey and is one short of the school record for picks in a season. He’s also chasing school records in career receptions and receiving yards.
Tom McGurk is a regional sports reporter for the Courier-Post, The Daily Journal and Burlington County Times, covering South Jersey sports for over 30 years. If you have a sports story that needs to be told, contact him at (856) 486-2420 or email [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @McGurkSports. Help support local journalism with a digital subscription.
This article originally appeared on Cherry Hill Courier-Post: Deptford’s Carter shines in many roles on the field and off