Though the Eagles ultimately lost 55-41 to reigning Class AAAAA state champion Creekside, the 5-foot-11, 205-pound senior quarterback rushed for 252 yards with two touchdowns, and threw for 127 yards and two more scores.
Carter helped South Cobb build a 17-7 first-quarter lead, and a 17-15 lead at halftime. His command of the offense, while shocking to some, wasn’t amazing to Eagles coach Sherrod Rainge.
The offensive coordinator under then-coach Ed Koester when Carter was a freshman, Rainge saw the young player’s talents early and groomed him to make the kind of plays he did against Creekside.
“He was one of our freshmen in 2011, and I thought back then that this kid has some talent and we could use him on varsity,” Rainge said. “So, instead of putting him on JV, we used him as our punter as a freshman to give him his best chance to get better and learn the offense.”
In 2011, South Cobb finished 8-4 and won a state playoff game for the first time in its history, behind the contributions of quarterback Stephon Masha.
Carter still had to wait his turn as a sophomore with Masha returning for his senior year, so Rainge played Carter as a receiver to help develop his skills, and used him as the backup quarterback.
“We had Masha back, but we wanted Kylil to play, so we put him in as a receiver, where he was able to pick up routes and to get an idea of what the quarterback has to see,” Rainge said.
“He was like a quarterback playing wide receiver. He knew everybody’s routes and what everybody’s role was on a play. It really helped his learning curve.”
With Masha graduating and moving on to Liberty, Carter finally got his chance behind center last season, though he had to learn a new system after Koester resigned and South Cobb hired Michael Youngblood as its new coach. The Eagles went 3-7 in what turned out to be Youngblood’s lone season, and Rainge took over for 2014.
“Getting back to the old system has helped,” Rainge said. “He knows the plays and makes the decisions. He has good football knowledge and football sense, and he just knows the plays on the field.”
Carter is glad to be back in the offense, too.
“It’s really exciting to be back,” he said. “I looked up to Masha those two years, and everything he did, I wanted to do, so it’s good to be back (in this offense).
“I’ve had three different coaches in four years and went through a couple of different offenses. I always said I wanted to be the best quarterback at South Cobb, and now I can put my mind on that.”
Rainge always liked what Carter could bring to the table.
“He’s not a speed-burner or a tall player,” Rainge said, “but he has the intangibles. He has a great feel for the game, and as a wide receiver, he could find open spots and get extra yards after the catch. He has great hands and great vision, and that’s what we saw in him in the beginning — just great knowledge of football.”
Carter’s talents are also evident. A dual-threat quarterback, he can beat teams with his arms or his legs. He considers himself a leader who can fire up his team.
“He has a great arm,” Rainge said. “He throws a nice, tight spiral, and he has good mechanics and football. He throws well off-balance, too, and can still be accurate. He has good body control. He’s a unique player.”
Despite opening the season with a loss against a strong opponent like Creekside, Carter believed his team had a chance to win.
“We were ready in my heart,” he said. “I told my boys that I didn’t care who Creekside was. We’re going to go out and play, and that’s what we did.”
South Cobb will get another test this week when it visits Pope, and a competitive Region 3AAAAAA schedule awaits following a home game with Marietta on Sept. 12.
Rainge and Carter both believe the Eagles are ready for a breakout season.
“I think Kylil makes us a playoff team, and a better team,” Rainge said. “And once teams key on him, I think it will open things up for our other guys to make plays.”
Carter’s looking forward to what South Cobb can do.
“I think we can go as far as we think we can,” he said. “We can go to (the state playoffs) if we think so.”