|No matter the final score, John Carrick shares a laugh with his sister Kendal after each game she attends.
Photo provided by the Carrick family
John Carrick has spent the past 16 years trying to keep up with his little sister.
Kendal Carrick has taught her big brother how to enjoy every moment of football and life, and the Washington and Lee linebacker is having a great time this season. No matter the standings or the final score each week, Carrick is having fun playing the game he loves with his teammates. He learned to value every second of every opportunity thanks to growing up with Kendal.
Kendal was born with Down syndrome and a hole in her heart which required immediate open heart surgery. John and his twin sister Ashton, five year's Kendal's senior, waited with curiosity to meet their new sibling. Kendal arrived home over three months after she was born. She was waiting for her brother and sister under the tree on Christmas morning, 1999, the gift that keeps on giving.
The doctors told the Carricks that Kendal may never walk or speak. She is now a gymnast, cheerleader, basketball player, and special olympian. She never let her limitations define her, and her big brother learned to appreciate his own athletic skills even more.
"I feel like I've been gifted to do these things, so I should be able to do it to the best of my abilities and help others who might need some help," said the W&L junior.
As the Generals struggled through a 2-8 season last year, Carrick stayed positive and did his part to uplift the spirits of his teammates. Much of that attitude, he says, can be credited to Kendal.
"She's always happy. That's contagious to everyone around her. Her attitude is she's just happy to be alive," said Carrick. "No matter what happens in a game, seeing her after a game always makes me laugh."
John's maturity and attitude, fostered by his family, have rubbed off on his teammates. The change in mentality started to take hold late last season, and the Generals found a renewed sense of belief in themselves after defeating Shenandoah in the season finale. That carried over through the offseason and into this year.
"We decided we're not going to worry about hardships, we're just going to focus on having fun," said junior linebacker Matt Barton. "The attitude on and off the field has remained the same. Nobody felt sorry for themselves after 2-8 last season."
The notion of self-pity does not exist in the Carrick family. As Kendal worked to learn to speak, read, and enjoy physical activity, John and Ashton learned patience. They helped their younger sister with her speech therapy by practicing flashcards and helped with her physical therapy by including her in their athletic endeavors. They taught her how to play basketball in the driveway. Ashton taught her volleyball. John let Kendal don his football helmet as he taught her a three-point stance. He stopped wrestling with her once she became too unbeatable.
"My mom and dad have done an unbelievable job," said Carrick. "Ashton and I helped out however we could."
Kendal has always been highly active, said John. She loves to sing and sang the whole way home to Charlotte from Lexington after Saturday's game. She has a fierce competitive streak but at the same time has helped teach John and his teammates how to enjoy the game.
"She taught me that you've got to be patient. I always try to keep a positive attitude like her," said Carrick. "My biggest thing is to always stay calm and stay positive, to just go out and have fun. For me, it's not all about winning and losing. I'm just happy to step on that field and play."
It helps to have such an unwavering fan in Kendal. She always wants John's team to succeed, but does not hold back from critiquing the team, either. Kendal was in Lexington on Saturday, loudly cheering on her brother and his teammates to "Beat the Eagles!" The Generals came through to improve to 7-0 and retain sole possession of first place in the ODAC.
"She'll let us know if we're not doing too well. She keeps us honest," said Barton, who will be roommates with Carrick next year. "Kendal is John's biggest fan. He loves it. I know he does."
The Generals know they have one fan who will always stay positive.
Photo provided by the Carrick family
After seeing what his younger sister has had to overcome throughout her life, Carrick is a very mature 21-year-old. He approaches each day with more perspective than most college student-athletes, who may get caught up in their next big challenge, whether it's an upcoming game or exam. He does not complain, and sets a standard for his teammates to follow.
"John's a very mature young man. He brings a great sense of maturity to the team," said Generals coach Scott Abell. "He has a great sense of the big picture. He's very focused and goal-driven. Nothing shakes John."
Kendal has had plenty to cheer for this season. The Generals are 7-0 for the first time since 1961. The win over Bridgewater was the 500th in program history. The Generals are having fun, and the results follow.
"It all starts with the leadership of guys like John," said Abell. "I never have to worry about him leading people to do anything but the right thing."
Carrick strives to make Kendal proud. Her strength and relentless positivity encourage him, which in turn motivates the rest of the Generals.
"He would do anything for his sisters and his family," said Barton. "I draw a lot of inspiration from their family."
Week 8 brought answers to a few lingering questions in the Mid-Atlantic.
After surviving three thrilling one-score victories, could Washington and Lee win an ODAC game convincingly?
Short answer: yes, eventually. It looked like the Generals were finally going to make a statement as they jumped out to a 21-3 lead over Bridgewater. But, a late first half fumble allowed the Eagles to cut the lead to 21-16 and gain momentum heading into halftime. The Generals finally made their statement in the second half, scoring the next 24 points on their way to a 45-23 victory. Duncan Maxwell and Marshall Hollerith each rushed for 101 yards as the nation's leading rushing offense piled up 605 total yards, 506 on the ground.
Who among the one-loss Centennial teams could challenge Johns Hopkins for the conference's Pool A bid, or make a run for a Pool C bid a la 2014 Muhlenberg?
Short answers: nobody, and Moravian. Three teams entered the weekend with just one loss. The only victor to emerge already has a loss to the Blue Jays this season. Johns Hopkins handed Gettysburg its second straight loss. The Blue Jays have now won 50 of their last 51 regular season games. The Bullets started the season 5-0, but have been stomped by the Mules and Blue Jays by a combined score of 77-20 over the past two weeks. Brandon Cherry and Stuart Walters combined to rush for 202 yards and three touchdowns, each carrying the ball 15 times. Bradley Munday caught eight passes for 85 yards and a score, and the Blue Jays defense forced five turnovers. Jack Campbell led that unit with 15 tackles, a forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries.
Moravian and F&M entered their matchup both 5-1 on the season, but the Greyhounds have already faced and lost to JHU. On Saturday, Moravian looked like the second best team in the conference, pouncing on the Diplomats early and taking a 31-10 lead into halftime. Moravian's offense was clicking on all cylinders en route to 590 total yards. Mike Hayes completed 19 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, and the Greyhounds rushed for 291 yards. Both Chris Negron (21 carries, 159 yards) and Eli Redmond (16, 103) eclipsed the century mark. Redmond surpassed 1,000 career yards, joining Negron in that club. Negron is now second in the program's record books and the duo is the first pair of 1,000-yard backs to share carries for the Greyhounds since 1976. Justice Anderson caught five passes for 91 yards and two scores in the convincing win. The Greyhounds close the season with Gettysburg, Juniata, and Muhlenberg. If they can win out, a Pool C berth is a possibility.
After avenging its previous losses to LaGrange, could Huntingdon defeat the other USA South team that has had the Hawks' number since Huntingdon joined the conference?
Short answer: yes, in a big way. The Hawks trounced Methodist, 42-6, holding the Monarchs to just 265 yards of total offense. Luke Bailey was an efficient 10-17 for 140 yards and three touchdowns, two to Nick Haas. The Hawks rushed for 260 yards, led by John Iwaniec's 93. Anthony White had two interceptions, including one that he returned 100 yards for a score. Huntingdon had lost to Methodist each of the past two seasons. This victory keeps the Hawks on a collision course with Maryville for what should essentially be the USA South conference championship game on Nov. 7.
The Scots held off a late rally from Averett after jumping out to a 24-6 halftime lead. Kelly Hall and Sean Bowman nearly led the Cougars all the way back, but Maryville held on for a 31-26 win. Averett's Caleb Williams intercepted a Nick Myers pass at the Scots 19-yard line with 3:18 to play, but Maryville's defense held on fourth down in the red zone to preserve the victory. Evan Pittenger passed for 142 yards and rushed for 104 yards and four touchdowns in the win.
Maryville hosts LaGrange and Huntingdon travels to Greensboro. The Scots and Hawks cannot afford to look ahead to their meeting the following Saturday.
Moravian hosts Gettysburg. The Greyhounds have momentum, while the Bullets desperately need to snap out of another late-season funk after starting off hot.
The game of the week is in the ODAC, where Washington and Lee travels to Emory and Henry. A win for the Generals would almost clinch the conference title. The Generals close the season against Catholic and Shenandoah, who are a combined 1-6 in ODAC play. There are three one-loss ODAC teams chasing the Generals, and W&L already has wins over Guilford and Hampden-Sydney. A win over the Wasps would give the Generals at least a two-game edge at the top of the conference standings. Meanwhile, a win for the Wasps would put E&H in the ODAC driver's seat. Emory and Henry still has to play Guilford in the season finale, and the Quakers face the Tigers on Nov. 7, leaving plenty of possibility for another chaotic cluster atop the ODAC standings at season's end should the Wasps win this Saturday.
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