Michael Carter has a range of experience, both public and private, in Arkansas high school football.
He played at Greenbrier when it was a AA school, then coached at Vilonia, Clinton, DeWitt, Arkansas Baptist and Little Rock Christian. He worked at many of those programs when they were AA schools.
So he’s ready and eager to take over the reins at Conway Christian from Chuck Speer, who birthed the program and guided it through infancy during a seven-year span before leaving for Corning last spring.
"I’ve coached public and private schools and there is not really any difference with the kids; kids are kids," he said. "The difference is public schools don’t have to rely as much on outside help for just about everything. You have to do a lot of community work in the community and have to have support from the private sector to get to where you are."
He’s been pleased with the support of the Conway Christian community as the school has its sites set on making the state playoffs for the fourth straight year as an Arkansas Activities Association member.
"The hardest thing and the biggest challenge has been the mental aspect of what we’re doing — not only for players, but for parents in getting them to buy into what is going on and they’ve done a great job of buying in," he said
"We’ve been coaching the heck out of these players and I have been very pleased with how the players and the community has bought in," said Carter, who was a quarterback at Greenbrier and a tight end under Harold Horton at the University of Central Arkansas. "The most pleasant surprise is you hear talk about this kid and that kid when you arrive and now a couple of kids have stepped up who nobody talked about and expected to step up. We have some great kids, smart kids who have picked up the new offense well."
Carter, who has coached 14 years, has installed a completely new offense and defense. The run-powered pistol spread of past years has been scrapped for the more wide-open spread, very similar to what Conway High runs.
"We’ll run a lot of option out of it," he said. "And we’re not abandoning the run, just throwing the ball more. I think this is the style of offense that will help us compete year in and year out."
Defensively, the Eagles will switch from a read-and-react style to one more aggressive at the point of attack. "We’re are going to attack all over the field," he said.
While his offensive and defensive philosophies are different than when he played under Horton, the basics are the same.
"Coach Horton always said that everything runs through the front and we want to make the offensive line the strongest part of the team, this year I think it is our strength," he said.
And from what he’s seen early, he’s not bashful in setting his sights on the Eagles making another playoff appearance.
"The first week I was here, people asked me how I was gonna replace a good quarterback (Kirby Powell) and two good running backs (Bates Isom and Adam Ragland)," he said. "Now that I’ve seen what we’ve got, I’ve got high hopes for this team."