After back-to-back district games filled with injuries, the odds were stacked against the Harker Heights Knights going into their Thursday night matchup against Ellison.
Against Belton, Harker Heights used three quarterbacks, and going into Ellison week, the Knights needed someone under center.
Enter freshman Terrance Carter.
“We were decimated by injuries; we didn’t have much of a choice,” explained head coach Jerry Edwards. “It was just kind of a necessity. We needed somebody who could come in, and he’s the next man up."
After watching Carter play both in middle school and his first three starts for the freshman squad, Edwards knew the young athlete was mature enough — physically and mentally — for the job.
Carter initially had mixed feelings when he was moved up.
“I was excited, but at the same time I was sad,” he explained. “I didn’t want to leave the freshman team because I thought this was going to be hard.
“But it’s about the same, just a little faster.”
In his first start for the Knights, and at just 14 years old, Carter completed 6 of 18 pass attempts for 229 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions.
“For a freshman playing his first varsity game, he showed some really good flashes,” said Edwards. “He made some mistakes, but he’s a 14-year-old kid playing football out here, so he did some good things and he’s going to learn and he’s only going to get better.”
Heading into the game, Carter admitted to butterflies.
“I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous.
“But then on the second play I had a long pass, and then I just started playing like I usually do.”
Carter threw a 58-yard bomb to junior wide receiver Isaiah Devane that set up the Knights with first-and-goal at the 7, which set up Andre Gebhardt to score first for Heights, all within the first 55 seconds of the game.
In the middle of the second quarter, the Knights were down 16-7 and were pushed back to their own 16-yard line for first-and-31 after two penalties.
Carter kept calm and completed a 30-yard pass to Jaylan Washington who ran for another 54 yards into the end zone to pull Heights within 16-13 at the break after the Knights failed to complete the 2-point conversion.
But the Knights were shut out the rest of the way and Ellison put the game out of reach with 21-unanswered points.
Late in the second half it looked like the injury bug was going to get to Carter, who limped off the field following a sack.
“I thought I had it,” he recalled after the game. “But (the defensive lineman) grabbed my right knee, so I knew I was going down, but I didn’t expect to land like that.”
Max Jones stepped in to complete the drive before the ball was turned over to Ellison.
Carter returned on the following possession, but couldn’t help rally the Knights in the 37-13 loss.
After the game, the young quarterback was content with his first varsity performance.
“I just played the game and did what I had to do,” he said.
Edwards was impressed with the performance of Carter.
“The sky’s the limit for that kid.
“But I’m really proud of him for coming on this stage in this situation and doing a stand-up job.”
Gebhardt ended the night with 65-yards on 16 carries while senior running back Rhomel Dudley added another 29 yards on seven carries.
The Knights hit the road Friday to face the Waco Lions at Waco ISD Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
“We just have to be able to run the football,” said Edwards. “If we want to win, we have to be able to move the football and we’ve got to run it.”