It was a question Lee’s Summit North football coach Jamar Mozee had pondered before, but one he didn’t act on until halftime of last year’s season opener.
How would the Broncos fare with Christian Carter at quarterback?
“We had dabbled with it in preseason but he had never done it,” Mozee said. “And so we kind of threw him in the fire. We learned a little bit about him and he’s pretty good.”
Pretty good, indeed.
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Carter couldn’t lead North to a victory that night at Park Hill, but he quickly proved capable of leading a ground-oriented attack the Broncos hadn’t played much before. With little preparation, he became the spark North needed to ignite its first winning season since 2001.
And after surviving last season’s trial by fire, Carter comes into his senior year not only with a year of experience under his belt, but also with the two other top ball carriers from that 6-4 team. As he guided his team through it first official practice Aug. 6, Mozee couldn’t hide his excitement about how much better Carter the Broncos’ offense could be.
“This year was the first time he had a full offseason doing it,” Mozee said. “So he has improved a lot since last year, and that’s kind of a scary thought because he was pretty good last year. But he’s improved dramatically.”
“I feel like I’m more prepared,” Carter said. “I had all summer to work on actually being quarterback. I feel like I’m coming in more prepared than last year and ready to go.”
Although listed as one of the quarterbacks at the start of last season, Carter was seen more as a wide receiver or defensive back before Mozee put him in for the second half against Park Hill. It didn’t take long before he scampered for a 14-yard touchdown run that gave North its first points of the game.
North wound up losing 41-21, but Carter definitely made a good first impression.
“I ran some type of quarterback iso (isolation) or something and he scored,” Mozee said. “And it wasn’t a normal score; it was something kind of spectacular like he does. And then I knew.”
As did Carter, who suddenly had a new role thrust upon him.
“I saw that with me at quarterback we had a better chance of winning more games and do way better than with me at receiver,” Carter said.
Carter turned more heads with 239 rushing yards and three touchdowns (all on 40-plus yard runs) in a stunning 65-27 romp over Raymore-Peculiar the next week. He followed that with 179 yards and a TD against Blue Springs South. Then came 146 yards and a 47-yard TD in a loss to Lee’s Summit West.
By season’s end, Carter had 1,037 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns as he guided a speedy attack that ground out more than 2,500 yards and 27 TDs. And Mozee found he had a quarterback with an inordinate amount of athleticism and speed.
“He’s not real big guy (6 feet, 170 pounds), he’s not real tall but he’s very athletic,” Mozee said. “He has a unique skill set, especially with the ball in his hands. It’s different. That’s kind of how I explain it. People ask me all the time like what is it? And I say it’s just different.”
Carter will begin this season as the Broncos undisputed leader, and he’ll do so with two veteran running backs by his side in seniors John Eldridge and Ontario Russell. Eldridge rushed for 599 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, Russell, had 572 yards and five TDs.
All three of them were sprinters on North’s Class 5 state champion track team last spring, and Mozee envisions using all their speed and explosiveness by having them all on the field at the same time.
“We’re all getting better together so we should all do way better than last year,” Carter said. “They see stuff, they let me know now. We read better together, it’s like we work as one.”
Mozee knows Carter and North’s ground game won’t catch anyone by surprise this season. The Broncos didn’t late last season: Rockhurst held them to 98 rushing yards in a 7-0 playoff loss that ended their 6-4 season.
They will know who’s in charge of the Broncos’ offense. And as this season begins, so too will the Broncos.
“Everybody else in town is going to know it too but that’s OK,” Mozee said. “He’s our guy. He’s a good football player and I’m glad it’s that way.”