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Former Long Reach standouts Ron'Dell, Robert Carter helping JMU football in title run

Brothers Ron'Dell Carter, left, and Robert Carter, right, have helped JMU reach the National Championship game for the second straight year.
Brothers Ron'Dell Carter, left, and Robert Carter, right, have helped JMU reach the National Championship game for the second straight year. (Courtesy photos / JMU athletics)

HOWARD COUNTY, MD — Robert Carter Jr. began his college career as a member of the track team at Florida A&M.

His brother, Ron’Dell Carter, started off as a college freshman with the football squad at Rutgers of the Big Ten Conference.

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Now the two Long Reach High School graduates have reunited to be part of the defense with the football team at James Madison University, which will play for its second national title in a row Jan. 6.

And what a defense it is at JMU (14-0), which forced five turnovers in the first quarter and a school-record 10 in the game Saturday night in a 51-16 win over No. 2 seed South Dakota State in the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals before more than 16,000 fans and an ESPNU audience in Harrisonburg, Va.

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“To me this is a better experience here, no disrespect to Rutgers,” said redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Ron’Dell Carter, standing near his cubicle in the spacious JMU locker room Saturday night. “The tradition here, the atmosphere; it is better than anything I have seen.”

Robert Carter Jr., a redshirt junior linebacker and preseason all-Colonial Athletic Association pick, and his brother each had one tackle in the win over South Dakota State. For good measure redshirt senior linebacker Kyre Hawkins (Dunbar High) had three tackles and recovered two fumbles for the Dukes, who had six interceptions and won their 26th game in a row.

Long Reach senior Robert Carter on Friday was named Gatorade Maryland Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year.

Robert Carter Jr. played in front of his parents, girlfriend and some Long Reach coaches in the win over South Dakota State. He said it’s “surreal” to share this playoff run with his brother.

“It was a dream that we had when we were kids,” said Robert Carter Jr., who had 15 tackles in 15 games last season at JMU. “When we talked about it … we had many conversations about it. When he was at Rutgers, when he got the opportunity (to transfer) it was surreal.”

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The JMU defense leads the nation in points allowed. So was it the JMU defense or mistakes by South Dakota State that led to 10 turnovers, which tied a FCS playoff record?

“I think it was a combination of both,” said Ron’Dell Carter, in his first season at JMU. “We really came out to play today. We were all hungry to get back there (to Texas). There are guys like me that can’t wait to get there.”

“We are relentless. We listen to the coaches’ game plan throughout the week. We are relentless. That is what it is,” Robert Carter Jr. said.

JMU, which beat Youngstown State for the title last season, will play North Dakota State for the national title in Frisco, Texas. The Dukes won in the playoffs last year at North Dakota State, which had won five national titles in a row before JMU snapped the skid.

They are moments that Robert Carter wasn’t sure he would have again after starting his collegiate career on the track.

“Some things happened and I parted ways with Florida A&M. I had the opportunity to come to JMU and I took it,” Robert Carter Jr. said.

Ron’Dell Carter realizes that power five conference programs like Rutgers attract more fans and media attention and the players get more freebies and usually have larger workout areas than the FCS level. But that never deterred him, and he says JMU has first-rate facilities. At the end of the day, he says it’s about winning football games.

“All of that stuff gets old if you are not happy,” said Ron’Dell Carter. “It wasn’t an easy process. I think the goals are the same (down a level). You want to win. My biggest thing was to win.”

At JMU he is certainly doing a lot of that.

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