John Carter has mastered the art of deception. With his long legs and 6-foot-1 frame, the Willow Canyon senior receiver often lures defenders into a false sense of security.
“John has long strides and covers a lot of ground without appearing to do so,” said Mike Hudnutt, Willow Canyon coach. “By the time the cornerback realizes how fast he is, John’s already behind him.”
Carter’s abilities have turned him into Willow Canyon’s big-play threat on offense.
The 175-pound Carter has turned four of his 10 receptions into touchdowns and is averaging nearly 30 yards per catch.
The 17-year-old Carter saved his biggest plays for Willow Canyon’s 33-26 overtime win at Lake Havasu on Sept. 22.
The first big play occurred on offense.
Carter ran past the cornerback and hauled in an 85-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Troy Valdez, which helped Willow Canyon grab a 19-18 lead early in the fourth quarter.
“Troy and I have worked together and have really clicked this season,” Carter said. “Last year, we used a lot of different quarterbacks during the season and I didn’t have the same rapport with Troy.”
Despite his heroics on offense, Carter’s biggest play occurred on defense in overtime.
Carter normally plays free safety on defense, roaming the secondary to help his teammates.
However, Willow Canyon coaches moved him to cornerback in overtime and put Carter on Lake Havasu’s best receiver.
Carter rewarded his coaches’ decision by intercepting a fourth-and-goal pass to seal the victory.
“I wasn’t even watching any other player,” Carter recalled of the fourth-andgoal pass. “I put all my focus on that receiver.
“He ran a fade route and I went up and got the ball.”
Carter’s interception showed how the right coaching move can put a player in position to make a positive impact on the game, the Willow Canyon coach said.
“John deserves credit for making the play and defensive coordinator (A.J.) Planeta deserves credit for putting John at corner in that situation,” Hudnutt said. “Big-time players make big-time plays and John came up huge.”
The overtime win gave Willow Canyon its first victory of the season and made for a pleasant return trip from Lake Havasu to Surprise.
“ Those kids really expended a lot of energy in that win,” Hudnutt said. “There was a lot of noise on the bus and then about 20 minutes outside of Lake Havasu, they all fell asleep.”
Before Carter drifted off, he made certain to call his mom, Karmen.
“That was a great conversation,” Carter said. “She was really happy for me.”
Life hasn’t been filled with touchdowns and game-clinching interceptions for Carter.
His father died six years ago and left Carter as the man of the house.
“My mom and I have gotten closer since my dad died,” Carter said. “I also try to look out for my sister, Sydney, who goes to Countryside Elementary.”
Carter fits plenty into his schedule.
He plays basketball in the winter and runs track in the spring. This past summer, he worked in the electronics department at the Luke Air Force Base Exchange.
“My supervisors knew that I played sports, so they gave me flexible hours,” Carter recalled. “I had a lot of weight training and preparation for the football season.”
That preparation may soon lead to a football scholarship.
“If John wanted to, I believe he could make an impact as a freshman at a Division 2 school,” Hudnutt said. “If he wanted to play Division 1, he might have to go the junior-college route to work on some things.”
Carter has received correspondence from a variety of schools.
He said he would like to attend a school out of the Valley to focus all of his attention on academics and athletics.
“I know football is the sport where I have the most skill,” Carter said of his future athletic pursuits. “Basketball is the sport I enjoy the most and track is something to keep me in shape.”
JOHN CARTER AT A GLANCE
FAVORITE MOVIE: “Friday Night Lights”
FAVORITE MUSICIAN: Kanye West
FAVORITE VIDEO GAME: NCAA Football ‘07 on PlayStation2
FAVORITE CLASS: Math