Maybe on the surface what Michael Carter did Friday night to American Heritage seems unreal.
It’s not every day a running back scores a school-record seven touchdowns.
But the success Carter enjoyed on a special Homecoming night at Bennett C. Russell Stadium goes beyond the 300-plus rushing yards he rolled up and it goes beyond the dazzling moves he made on the field to help propel Navarre to a 70-26 victory in front of a frenzied crowd on a cool Friday night in October.
His performance, highlighted by six rushing TDs and an electrifying 87-yard kickoff return for a score, started last week in front of a television with his older brother, Dwayne, who plays running back for Harding University in Arkansas.
Michael, who broke Dwayne’s record of six touchdowns, attended his brother’s game last week and the two got together afterwards to watch film.
“We watched film on them after my game. We were already discussing a game plan,” said Dwayne, who was in town to watch his younger brother play. He had an idea of what he was going to do, but nothing like this. I’m so proud of him.”
No, no one could have imagined Michael shredding the defense of the Stallions the way he did, especially since American Heritage (1-6) might just be the best one-win team in the state. The Stallions have been to six state finals in the last 10 years, winning it all three times.
Navarre (8-0) was the fourth ranked opponent the 3A school out of Delray Beach has faced this season — the Raiders are eighth in the 6A poll — and looking at the scoreboard afterwards, one could argue it’s the best ranked opponent the Stallions have played all year.
“They are an incredible team,” Carter said. “They are super athletic and I credit them for coming out and playing as hard as they did. I have a lot of respect for them.”
Carter exchanged high fives and hugs with several of the American Heritage players after the game, stopping his post-game interview with reporters several times to do so.
When he finally got around to talking about his own performance, he deflected credit to the guys up front, which is business as usual for the University of North Carolina commit.
“I’d love to take this record but I didn’t really do it,” Carter said. “It was my offensive line.”
Carter also pointed out how special it was for his brother to be here to witness his big night.
“It was extremely special,” Carter said. “We grind together, we bleed together, we sweat together. It was awesome to have him in town for this.”
For the Raiders as team, this was their 20th consecutive regular-season win.
Not only did they put up a season-high in points but the defense also rose to the occasion.
Navarre trailed 6-0 and 14-7 before taking the lead for good at 16-14 on a Tyson Brown safety. Yet, with 11:53 left in the first half, the Raiders were clinging to a 23-20 lead.
That’s when the defense got on track, deflecting passes, pressuring the quarterback, hitting hard and taking away the big plays the Stallions thrived on early to hang around.
That effort, combined with a three second-quarter TDs by Carter and Caine Adamson’s 21-yard scoring strike to Jordan Williams, gave the Raiders a 49-26 lead at halftime.
“The running game was great tonight and our offensive line did a great job of blocking, Navarre head coach Jay Walls said. “Defensively, we settled down in the second half and shut them out.”
Navarre has held an opponent scoreless in nine of the last 11 quarters of football it has played. The Raiders, who thrive off wearing out opponents, have not allowed a point in the second half of each of their last three games.
“They have a lot of speed in South Florida. We just had to get used to the tempo of the game,” senior defensive back Lee Jones said. “We said to ourselves they aren’t better than us.”
The attention now turns to the biggest game of the regular season. A District 2-6A title and the Beach Bowl trophy will be on the line next Friday night when Navarre plays host to rival Gulf Breeze.
The Dolphins are 7-1 overall and 2-0 in the district but have lost their last nine against the Raiders, who are also 2-0 in the district and are the reigning district champs.
“It’s a rivalry game. We are going for the 10-peat,” Carter said. “It really doesn’t get any bigger than this. We’re coming out with a fire. It’s war.”