The seeds of Boston English High’s turnaround on the football field this year were planted four falls ago, well before the program knew it needed to be turned around so drastically, well before third-year coach Chris Boswell took over and well before the team went 2-18 in Boswell’s first two seasons — the only two victories coming on forfeitures.
The seeds for English’s current two-game win streak were planted when Jordan Carter — the Blue & Blue’s current center, middle linebacker and emotional core — was just a freshman playing JV football. A senior that year, Melvin Booker, helped carve out Carter’s seemingly bottomless bowl of positivity, a well Carter nearly sucked dry the last two seasons.
“He’s like someone who motivated me, he told me to stay positive,” the 5-foot-11, 190 pound senior said of Booker, who is currently a junior linebacker at Becker College. “That little time I was with him and worked with him [stuck with me] and I just try to keep that. It’s like there’s no reason to get negative. If I tell that o-lineman next to me, ‘oh you suck bro, block, you suck bro, block.’ It’s going to make him feel bad and he’ll be like, ‘why should I even try if I can’t block him.’
“But if you give him that positive feedback, ‘yo you got him next time, make sure you blow him out, drive him 10 yards back, yo make sure you run harder, make sure you make that move, make him miss, catch the ball, next time you got that’ …”
All of Carter’s positive energy, which he used to keep teammates together and fend off classmates hating on their team, paid off two weeks ago when English won its first non-forfeit game in two seasons by defeating New Mission, 14-6. But the Titans are a first-year football program so English’s real sense of victory came a week later when they shut out a potent South Boston offense, 14-0.
“The first game that we won, when we got back to school we had a little bit more support but everyone was like, ‘oh that’s just one game, you still have to prove yourself, that’s just one game,” Carter recalled on Sunday night. “I can’t wait to see what they are going to say on Monday.”
Still, Boswell said getting the first victory was like getting a gorilla off his back.
“We can’t do it without him,” Boswell said of Carter. “He leads by example, he is a vocal leader and he does it on and off the field, in the classroom, in the weight room and on field. He does it all.
“He’s very committed. I can count on him. I trust him. He’s been with me three years and it paid off.”
Carter said getting the first victory was like getting an elephant off his back.
“It’s big for the whole team because a lot of people they weren’t sure, even on the team, that they were going to win. It felt like they have a new found confidence in their own self that we can beat any team now and we can.
“These two victories were big wins for us and I hope we continue winning. Everyone is coming to practice and working hard.”
The payoff has been huge for Carter because he has invested so much during the last two seasons, especially because even Mr. Calm was rattled by classmates talking trash about the team’s lack of success.
"It’s so aggravating, it’s confusing to me how you can just give up on a group of people that are trying to make it work,” he said. “I’m like ‘yo, we’ll do better, we gotta get more people, we got freshman on the team, it’s not that easy.’ They say ‘yo, you suck. You can’t even get a first down.' "
When confronted by classmates, Carter quizzes them on football vocabulary. He askes them what an “A gap” is or what are the orange sticks in the four corners of the end zone called.
“They are talking about we suck and it’s like, ‘how come you don’t come out? If you come out you’re going to make us good, right?’” he said. “ ‘Nah, nah I don’t want to lose.’ Well then you suck too. Stop talking about the team.' I try to end it there. I try not to keep going.
“I try to avoid fights. I try to stay positive with everyone. Even with the people that for some reason don’t like me I’ll say hi to them. I don’t care; I don’t like being negative all the time. You won’t get anywhere in life if you are negative all the time.”
Still, the darkest moment of the last two seasons for Carter came after English lost to rival Boston Latin, 50-0, on Thanksgiving morning, a game that is the longest continuing rivalry in high school football nationwide.
“That’s the biggest game of the year for us, it hurts me so bad that we’re losing all the time,” said Carter, who even thought about quitting after the last loss last season. “Truthfully, yeah [I thought about quitting] but I love this team so much, I love the sport, I don’t want to stop playing it just because we’re losing, it’s almost like I have to play."
Ultimately the Latin loss proved to be more motivation than anything else for Carter, who said he worked out in the weight room every day between last Thanksgiving and the start of this season.
And even though Boswell shifted the teams focus this past year from winning and losing on the scoreboard to accomplishing small goals such as getting 10 first downs a game, getting four explosive plays a game and going an entire game with no penalties or turnovers, Carter still could not stop thinking about what it would be like to win.
“I think about it almost every day,” he said before this season started. “I’m on the field all the time and I’m like ‘Damn I wish the season was still going.’”
Another huge part of Carter’s success is Tom Lamb, the Hall of Fame coach from Natick who returned to coaching last season as an assistant for English.
“He’s Mr. consistency out here,” Lamb said. “Whether we win or lose he’s out here working the next day and in our situation that’s wonderful. It’s so admirable; he’s going to be a great success no doubt about that.”
Lamb said he heard coaches at the Bay State Camp bragging about Carter this summer, a remarkable scenario considering this is only Carter’s fourth year of football.
Although he liked the game and watched it on TV growing up, his grandmother, who he has lived with since he was 2-years old, couldn’t afford to put her grandson on a Pop Warner team. Carter didn’t even know all the positions when he joined the junior varsity football team at English as a freshman and thought he could play quarterback.
“I was like, ‘I want to be quarterback,’ and I couldn’t throw so I played guard,” he said.
With nearly a 4.0 GPA, Carter said he would love to play college football but he would rather go to a school with a good engineering program. Carter’s other dream is to return to his Alma mater to watch the seeds of his labor bloom into a viable football program at a viable school.
“I would feel so happy, I would feel like I helped this school,” he said. “English was good. English was a good school. If we can bring it back to that, if we could have people getting a 2.5 [GPA] even if you don’t play sports, people getting scholarships, people going to college, four year colleges, not RCC and Bunker Hill.
“Not to be called pregnant high because we don’t always have pregnant people in our school all the time; we have like maybe one. To change how everyone views English, that would feel so good. And even now if that happened that would feel so good — I don’t know — I want to see change.”
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