WHITE CASTLE —Injured players at four offensive skill positions and a 14-7 deficit against a district rival had Kentwood quarterback Shyheim Carter echoing one phrase to his Kangaroo teammates in the locker room.
“Don’t worry ’bout nothing,” he said repeatedly.
Carter ignited that beat up Kangaroos offense with third-quarter touchdown runs of 22 and 40 yards and added one through the air to erase a 14-7 halftime deficit, giving Kentwood a crucial 40-20 district win over White Castle on Friday.
The catalyst in a 27-point third quarter, Carter broke numerous tackles for a 24-yard run on the first play from scrimmage, following that with a 22-yard run up the middle and untouched into the end zone to tie the game just 26 seconds into the third.
“We didn’t play December football in the first half,” Carter said. “I was just giving the ball off, trying to scheme things out (in the first half). I really wasn’t pulling it and running it. We lost a couple of key players tonight, and I had to come through for the team.”
White Castle running back Dontrell Taylor, who torched the Kentwood run defense using jet sweeps and tosses for 135 first half yards — including an 82-yard touchdown run on the Bulldogs’ second play from scrimmage to put them up 14-0 — didn’t play in the second half after failing concussion protocol.
That, coupled with two special teams gaffes in the third quarter, was the Bulldogs’ ultimate undoing on senior night.
Just after Carter’s first touchdown run of the third quarter, the White Castle kickoff team let the ensuing kickoff fall untouched in play — a live ball. Kentwood pounced and took its first lead six plays later.
“Dontrell is our leader. Losing a player of his caliber is always a big loss,” White Castle coach Lamar Thomas said. “I just don’t think we responded well as a team. I’m not happy with the way we responded … (This game) has to be a turning point for us.”
Then, after White Castle’s ensuing drive stalled, a low snap to punter Dequian Jackson stuffed the attempt, setting Carter up at the White Castle 40-yard-line.
He took the next snap, darted to his right, cut, made a man miss, aligned his blockers and reversed field to score his second touchdown of the quarter, putting the Kangaroos up 27-14.
“I’m glad he’s on my team, “ Kentwood coach Jonathan Foster said. “He stepped up. He never wavers. He didn’t get down. It was in his eyes. We got him the ball, he made plays, and he took over the game. That’s what he’s supposed to do.”
Carter, who finished with 141 yards on 11 carries to go along with 188 yards on 11 completions, had one other special moment thanks, in part, to those aforementioned injuries.
Down two running backs, freshman and little brother Larry Carter was thrust into action for most of the second half. After big brother set it up with runs of 11, 8, and 12 yards, little brother finished the job, plunging in from 8 yards out to give the Kangaroos their first lead of the game and his first high school touchdown midway through the third quarter.
“Both of them produced, so I know their mom has to be feeling blessed,” Foster said. “I’m so proud of them. This is our best victory of the season right here.”