1988 Carter saga told by ESPN

Published on Sunday, 20 August 2017 15:38 - Written by PHIL HICKS, phicks@tylerpaper.com

Say what you wish about ESPN, but the network’s “30 for 30” documentaries are among the best the industry produces.

The next one up is about the 1988 Dallas Carter High School Cowboys, billed as one of the top teams around or the very least one of the most talented. The 1973 John Tyler team, led by eventual pros Earl Campbell, Ronnie Lee, Gary Don Johnson and Campbell twins (Steve and Tim), among others, will make a good argument about best ever too.

NFL Pro Bowler Jessie Armstead (Miami) and former NFL/CFL player Clifton Abraham (Florida State) were among the 21 players from that squad who signed Division I scholarships.

“What Carter Lost” is scheduled to air at 8:30 p.m. Thursday on ESPN. It follows the 14-0-1 state championship season that was eventually stripped from coach Freddie James and his Cowboys.

From all indications from friends who had advanced viewings of the piece, it is another award-winning episode. Producer/director Adam Hootnick interviewed all the major players for the story.

Former Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Randy Galloway provides the voice-over for the introduction and the finale.

The Cowboys fought the UIL to keep academically ineligible players on the field during the playoffs, but eventually lost the court case and was stripped of its title in January 1991.

As usual, the postseason is followed by all Texans and the interest was even higher for that season.

I got to witness the Cowboys’ opener, a 21-7 win over John Tyler. They eventually defeated area teams Lufkin (31-7) and Marshall (22-18) before knocking off Odessa Permian (14-9 as documented in “Friday Night Lights” book by Buzz Bissinger) in the semifinals and Converse Judson (31-14 in the state final).

Following the season, six players were part of a ring of teenagers linked to robberies. Armstead said he was asked to join in, but declined. However, Gary Edwards, who was headed to Houston and Derric Evans, who had signed with Tennessee, did. They were convicted, served time and never played football again.

If you have a chance, take in the documentary.