Ten years after the NBC premier of popular series Friday Night Lights, based on a 2004 film featuring Derek Luke and a 1990 book, both by the same name, a film telling the other side of the story becomes available to the masses by DVD on August 2. Carter High stars Charles S. Dutton, Vivica A. Fox, and rapper/activist David Banner in a story about the rise and fall of a champion high school football team during a time it was more popular in Dallas than the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. The executive producer of the movie is former all-pro Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Greg Ellis.
“This Carter High thing is the other side of Friday Night Lights,” Ellis said at the time of the film’s initial limited theatrical release last fall. “The team got 37 minutes of airtime during that movie which is unthinkable considering the story was about Odessa Permian’s season”.
Carter High revisits the controversial 1988 football program from the South Dallas suburbs that some experts say was the greatest high school football team ever. Four future NFL players including Jesse Armstead, reportedly the only three time Parade All America prep standout ever, were featured on the team. Though Armstead would play college football at the University of Miami and win two national championships before his long NFL career with the New York Giants, he was fortunate to have the personal discipline to avoid the scandal that rocked the Dallas community.
Two other Division I recruits – Derric Evans and Gary Edwards – were convicted for their roles in a series of video store and restaurant armed robberies after the championship season. They were among 15 students, including six football players, who participated in what came to be known as “the Carter robberies”.
“While you never shot or killed anyone, the defendants before this Court cumulatively committed in six months’ time more armed robberies than Bonnie and Clyde did in their lifetime,” said former state District Judge Joe Kendall in his sentencing of Carter High players.
Edwards’s questionable Algebra grade was also the catalyst for constant controversy surrounding the team and the demise of their championship season.
Carter beat Odessa Permian 14-9 in the state semifinals of the 1988 season chronicled in the best-selling 1990 memoir and 2004 movie. The portrayal of the Carter team in that movie alienated many from the Dallas suburb, but the extended attention given to the team is what attracted Ellis to make this film. Odessa Permian was able to win the state championship in the following 1989 season. Prior to that game Carter also narrowly defeated the eventual 1990 state champions, an upstart quarterfinals opponent from Marshall, Texas featuring Odell Beckham, Sr. (father of popular New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham, Jr.), which had defeated Odessa Permian 13-12 in an early-season meeting.
Ellis launched Play Now Enterprises after retiring from pro football in 2010, and Carter High is the film company’s first major project. He seeks to establish a diverse portfolio of projects while giving independent writers and directors an opportunity to shine.