Stratford senior T.J. Carter has been making his presence felt all season long.
Whether it be on offense, defense or the return game, the versatile 5-foot-11, 175-pound Memphis commitment has been the driving force for the unbeaten Spartans.
That was no different in Friday’s 28-21 win over Marshall County.
“Anything for the team,” said Carter, who transferred to Stratford from Hendersonville last spring. “Even if the ball is not in my hands I’m going to go 110 percent. The coaches make the call.”
The coaches called his number a lot Friday as Carter had 33 touches and scored three of his team’s four touchdowns in the the narrow win for Stratford (6-0).
“Amazing,” Stratford coach Maurice Fitzgerald said of Carter’s performance. “He’s just a tough player. Just a tough, tough player, and he’s always been that way, so nothing has really changed. He just works hard.”
In addition to hauling in three receptions for 48 yards and the eventual game-winning, third-quarter touchdown from 29 yards out, Carter, No. 9 on The Tennessean’s 2016 Dandy Dozen, also carried a season-high 26 times for 174 yards and a pair of scores
“The offense just executed,” Carter said. “The line blocked perfectly, opening holes for the backs, we made big plays when we needed them on third and fourth downs and we just never backed down.”
And while Carter made the biggest impact on offense, he also helped key a Stratford defense that limited Marshall County to a season-low 21 points — zero in the second half.
“First half there were a lot of busted coverages,” said Carter, a cornerback. “Guys weren’t getting the right coverages, and we weren’t communicating good. At halftime we made adjustments and we didn’t make the same mistakes twice.”
The Tigers (5-0), led by Kamron Liggett’s 69-yard, two-touchdown rushing performance, managed just 40 yards from scrimmage in the second half.
“Hats off to Stratford,” Marshall County coach Thomas Osteen said. “They were more physical than us and their defense was phenomenal. We didn’t make enough plays, and when you’re playing in tight games you have to make big plays.”
Carter has committed to Memphis to play defensive back, but with the number of impact plays he’s been making on offense this season, Fitzgerald isn’t too sure where he’ll end up.
“It makes you wonder,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s scoring of kickoffs, punts, receiving and rushing. It’s obvious he can do a lot of things when he gets his hands on the ball.”
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