Christian Carpenter approached this fall with two goals in mind for his senior football season — turning around Aberdeen's 1-9 football team and making college coaches notice his considerable talents on both sides of the ball.
After helping the Eagles reach the state semifinals with a 10-3 record and drawing attention from West Virginia, Maryland, Morgan State and Towson, the All-Metro wide receiver could be hanging a "Mission Accomplished" banner.
Instead, he's turning more heads in the third season — all-star game time.
At last weekend's inaugural Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference Senior Showcase, Carpenter earned Most Valuable Player honors for the victorious North team after catching a touchdown pass early in the game and snaring a 40-yard pass that set up the game-winning touchdown to edge the South, 27-24.
Saturday, he will join most of the state's premier high school players in the 4th Annual Maryland Crab Bowl at Bowie State.
All this week, Carpenter has made the lengthy trek down I-95 to College Park for practices, but it's been worthwhile.
"It means a lot to be chosen as one of the top seniors in the state," Carpenter said. "It's a good opportunity for me to be seen by these coaches, and I just want to get on the field. I just want to play football and play against some great players and great competition. I'm also looking forward to coming out with a win."
Loyola's Brian Abbott, who is coaching the Baltimore team, was quickly impressed with the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Carpenter's offensive game.
"One of the biggest things is he's just a great kid," Abbott said. "He's hardworking, but athletically as a football player, he's explosive. He's got great ball skills. You can see in practice how aggressive he is to the ball. He catches everything. For us, he's playing receiver, but I can see his skills translating to the defensive side of the ball as well."
Carpenter, 18, suffered a broken bone in a foot at the end of the 2010 season and missed the last four games. That may have set him back a little in the recruiting process, but he and the Eagles quickly rebounded this fall.
"First of all we had a brand new coaching staff, and also the seniors, the 2012 class, we didn't want to go out with a bad reputation for having another bad season," Carpenter said. "So all of us put in the work in the weight room and on the field all summer, and it paid off. A few of us want to play after high school, so, with a new coaching staff and a new system, during two-a-days [in August] the whole attitude changed."
The Eagles won their first four games and finished 9-1 in the UCBAC Chesapeake Division while Carpenter had a stellar season, catching 64 passes for 1,112 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also made 128 tackles and intercepted six passes as a safety.
"Some things you can't teach, and the way he goes after the ball is one of those things," first-year Aberdeen coach Johnny Brooks said. "He attacks the ball like it's his. He plays receiver like a safety."
Carpenter's first scholarship offer came from Morgan, and, with about six weeks left until the Feb. 1 signing day, he is keeping his options open. Earlier this week, he met with Maryland coach Randy Edsall at Aberdeen.
"We talked for about 15 minutes," Carpenter said. "He just talked about academics and how important it is and how important it is for me to get into Maryland. I have a 2.6 [GPA] right now. He said that's good. Basically, he just wants me to get my SAT score up."
Most programs are recruiting Carpenter as a safety, he said, but Towson's coaches, who observed Crab Bowl practice Tuesday, are looking more for offense.
"To me, it doesn't really matter," he said. "I like playing both. I like scoring touchdowns and making plays on offense, and I like hitting on defense too. I'm thinking on offense I could bring a little physicalness to making good blocks, but I'd like either one."
4th Annual Maryland Crab Bowl
What: Maryland's only statewide high school football all-star game, pitting Baltimore vs. Washington
When: Saturday, noon
Where: Bowie State University
Coaches: Baltimore, Brian Abbott, Loyola; Washington, Jerry Franks, Huntingtown
Last year: Baltimore win 21-17
Series: Washington leads, 2-1