EAST CHICAGO | While most of the kids in his neighborhood were dreaming of being the next Michael Jordan, East Chicago's Martayveus Carter had another idea.
It went against the urban grain, to say the least.
Carter, a junior, started playing football when he was 5 years old. He didn't pick up a basketball until he was in fifth grade. He did hoop it up for the Cardinals last winter, but it wasn't with the same kind of love.
“When football season was over, I had nothing to do,” Carter said. “Basketball kept me off the streets.”
East Chicago has won six state basketball championships. By comparison, its best football season was in 1991, when the Cards went 10-1 just five years after the program began.
That all changed on Friday night at Pete Rucinski Field when Central beat Griffith 35-0 to finish the regular season with an 8-1 record. This was no typo or fluke. The best team ran away with it. Period.
Cards coach Stacy Adams has done a phenomenal job building a power in an urban setting. This doesn't happen often in Indiana. Adams' coach, Dave Templin, did it at Lew Wallace a generation ago.
Now, his pupil is doing it at E.C.
“The biggest thing, when I first started, we didn't have everyone at practice,” said Adams, who is in his third season in the Twin Cities. “I had to let the kids know, if you were not at practice you were not part of the team."
As good as Carter is, the Cardinals are not a one-man show. Central will travel to Hammond, another great urban renewal story, next Friday for the Class 4A Sectional 9 opener.
In a close game against the Panthers, Carter blocked a field goal attempt in the second quarter and returned it 85 yards for the opening score. That one play changed the momentum.
And he was the lead spear in the Cardinals' Chicago Bears-like defense. They don't just hit you hard. They make you pay for your mistakes emphatically.
“I can't believe there's a better player around,” Adams said.
Through eight weeks, it's astonishing that Carter has been “rested” on offense. In 59 carries Carter rushed for 922 yards and 16 touchdowns. He had 69 tackles with five sacks and 22 tackles-for-loss.
Today, Carter will be on an unofficial visit for Purdue's game against Wisconsin. He visited Indiana State last week.
“This is a great win,” Carter said, "but we're not done. We want to stay together, keep working hard and get ready for Hammond next week.”
This team is no longer the program you wanted to draw for the postseason. Carter and company will be a very tough out. Just like all those basketball teams in East Chicago.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.