The Real Story of The 1988 Carter High Football Team

A new film, written and directed by a former player for Carter High, details their triumphant road to the 1988 State Championship and the controversy that surrounded the team after they won.

By Laura RiceDecember 22, 2015 9:45 am,

A high school state football championship in Texas is arguably about more than just temporary bragging rights. It’s a guaranteed story that will be told for generations, with a record that will be likely painted up on a water tower or on a city’s welcome sign. Carter High in Dallas took the state championship in 1988, but this new film about the team is not all about victory.

Carter High is a football movie. But it’s not the kind of football movie that Dallas-based writer and director Arthur Muhammad ever imagined he’d be making.

“We always thought that, ‘Wow this would be a great movie, somebody needs to make a movie about this,'” Muhammad says. “We would actually say that back then in high school, never to think that one day I would do it – but that’s exactly what happened.”

Muhammad was on that 1988 state championship team. If you’d asked him then, he knew the story had potential.

“It was just the part about the football team and the adversity that we had to overcome,” he says, “that alone was a movie in and of itself.”

That’s definitely still part of the film, but it’s not the main focus.

I think I’m losing them.
You go out there and you defend your boys.
Football is about making good decisions – and gambling don’t build character.

Challenges went beyond players gambling. Just days after winning the state championship, a handful of Carter High players robbed a fast food joint. It was the first in nearly two dozen robberies connected to some players on the team.

“I was younger,” he says. “I was a junior that particular year. I never even knew that that stuff was going on until it’s like they were actually out and basically confessed to the crimes.”

Instead of going off to play for college teams, those players went to prison.

“I want the younger audience to know that your decision that you’re making right now can affect the rest of your life,” Muhammad says. “You know, be it good or be it bad. So that’s the impact that I wanted to leave.”

That’s the reason executive producer Greg Ellis signed on.

“I am a former NFL football player,” he says, “11 years with the Dallas Cowboys and the last year with the Oakland Raiders.”

Ellis said his interest in this film was what it could teach.

“All of us can think back to when we were teenagers and the decision processing of teenagers,” Ellis says, “that part of our brain is not fully developed until you’re about the age 25.”

But while this is a film about some football players making some bad decisions, it’s also a film about many other players who didn’t go down the wrong path. And at a time when it seems the game is always in the cross-hairs, director Arthur Muhammad says “Carter High” isn’t trying to show football in a bad light.

“I think it shows football actually as the hedge,” Muhammad says. “You know, like football – as long as they were doing football and in football – it kept them away from making such bad decisions and choices. It was not until football was removed and the hedge, so to speak, was removed that they ventured out and did what they did.”

If you want to see “Carter High” you may have to search it out – it’s been in limited release and producers are still working on a broader distribution deal.