BURNABY — Last month, as the St. Thomas More Knights set off to Mission for what would eventually be a hard-fought 18-6 win over the host Roadrunners, STM head coach Steve De Lazzari sent a text to his defensive coordinator Jared Power about one of the team’s influential seniors.
“Coach Power was going to be away for that game attending to the birth of his child,” prefaced De Lazzari. “So I texted him that Kaishaun would be performing that day as a player, coach and defensive co-ordinator. It was all tongue-in-cheek, but maybe a little part of it wasn’t.”
The player in question?
The Knights’ 6-foot-2, 245-pound defensive end/pulling guard Kaishaun Carter, who like a hurricane, has arrived at his senior season as one of the province’s most influential players.
Of course Carter wasn’t going to fill in for Power or for De Lazzari on the sidelines, but if the latter’s text could take the form of a his face, the head coach could be seen flashing one of those sly, smile-bubbling-below-the-surface kinds of grins.
“By heads and shoulders, he is one of the best leaders we’ve ever had at varsity,” says De Lazzari of Carter, who last season was selected the BCHSF Grade 11 Defensive Player of Year, and this year is getting offers from schools across the country who are interested in securing his services as a student-athlete beginning in the fall of 2020.
“He is a very dynamic and outspoken leader,” continues De Lazzari, whose team moved into the No. 5 spot in the Varsity Letters’ Big 5 rankings this week following its surprising 16-13 win over the former No. 5 Kelowna Owls. “He leads vocally and he leads by example. From the time I first saw him in Grade 8, he’s just had a skill set and an IQ that was above other players, and it’s just continued to grow and develop.”
The Knights have raced out to a 3-0 record in the Eastern Conference, a mark good enough to be tied for top spot with North Delta’s Seaquam Seahawks.
Keeping that record perfect, however, will not be easy as the Abbotsford Panthers, stinging from a loss last week at No. 4 Lord Tweedsmuir, provide the opposition in a 7:30 p.m. clash Friday at Burnaby Lakes.
Ask Carter about the early success of his team following a non-conference forfeit loss to Vancouver College, one which came after a wave of injuries and illness swept through the team in September, and his response is at once mature and big-picture oriented.
“Our depth guys were able to hang in there for a really long time, and that is a great team at Vancouver College,” Carter said. “So in the end, that game gave us great motivation. It let us know that if we reach our potential we can be a scary team.”
Many Knights play both ways, but in that game, 14 of the combined 22 starting offensive and defensive spots were filled by non-starters, including Carter who had been felled by a virus.
Back to full health, Carter has been a force of nature, registering six tackles and three sacks in last week’s win over Kelowna.
A HEART-AND-SOUL PRESENCE
If you were scouting him, and you happened to first spot No. 54 manning the Knights’ offensive line, you could be excused for thinking it was his natural strength.
“It’s scary because he’s he’s a defensive player, that’s how the (universities) are looking at him, bit he’s also the heart and soul of our offensive line,” laughs De Lazzari. “He makes all of the line calls, all the protections, and were often times trying to scheme so that we can run the ball behind him.”
The same motor and athletic flow that make his pass rush skills stand out, help him line up as a pulling guard on either side of the STM offensive line where he has found great chemistry with the likes of seniors Evan March and Sean Oreta, and Grade 11s Thomas Montagano and Bryson Vanloo, the latter looking like a rising star in his own right.
Carter, self-admittedly, “doesn’t get too high or too low,” yet his passion to learn and the respect he shows his mentors is unmistakable, and thus it’s no wonder that since NCAA Simon Fraser first offered him on June 5, many others have followed suit including Canada West schools UBC, Alberta, Calgary and Manitoba.
Last season, while enjoying a breakout campaign at the senior varsity level, Carter kept his eyes wide open, and says he learned a lot from former senior Sam Steele, now working into his university career along the defence at UBC.
“From Sam, I learned how to be a vocal leader,” he says. “Sam taught me how to bring people up.”
The game itself has also been his teacher.
“I pride myself on my football IQ,” he says. “I like to think it is the strongest part of my game. Football teaches you a lot of lessons about accountability and so much of what you face are things that apply to your life.”
Let that sink in, and you start to realize that while his head coach’s text was sent in friendly jest, it might not have been too far from the truth.
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