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‘When the Game Stands Tall’ Long after ‘The White Shadow,’ Thomas Carter is still undefeated

Kevin Chill Heard | 8/14/2014, 9:19 a.m.
Anytime a film is based on true events, it comes with a certain amount of pressure to stay true to ...
Director Thomas Carter

De La Salle High School’s Spartan football team went from obscurity to a 151-game winning streak that shattered all records for any American sport.

At the conclusion of the private media screening of the film “When the Game Stands Tall,” something occurred that one normally doesn’t see at a media screening – members of the audience clapped.

The story about a real-life high school football team that went undefeated for an incredible 12 years is more than your average sports movie; it’s a lesson in life. To run up a string of wins year in and year out so enormous that it garners national attention and a local following that boarders on mythical is awe-inspiring. Each year a different group of young men face the pressure of perfection. And each year, they succeed in pulling-off the improbable.

But what happens to a town and a team caught-up in the rapture of an undefeated culture when then they lose? What happens to that year’s team? This story is the answer.

Thomas Carter (Director/Executive Producer) is the man responsible for crafting this true story into a film. And while three-time Emmy-winner was the executive producer of HBO’s “Don King: Only in America,” and feature films like “Coach Carter,” “Swing Kids,” “Metro (starring Eddie Murphy)” and “Save the Last Dance,” he cut his Hollywood teeth as a young actor in the ‘70s TV show “The White Shadow.”

As Hayward the high school hoop star, Carter is no stranger to a set involving young men bonding in a high school sports setting.

The early thought is that this film will have a big faith-based following. When asked about this Carter responded, “I didn’t set out to make a faith-based movie. In fact, I’m a little surprised that people are picking up those elements as much as they are. I mean that’s fine, clearly those elements are in the movie, but not the thrust of it. For me, or the point of the movie, are those human values of brotherhood, love, commitment and personal responsibility that Coach Lad (Bob Ladouceur) teaches. He doesn’t coach from a religious perspective, he’s a religious person. He teaches a religion class and De La Salle is a Catholic High School. But, what I tried to do was bring up a religious point of view, but also be bold enough to challenge it and question it.”

Carter feels that the various views concerning religion expressed during the film are what makes it interesting, adding “It’s what makes life interesting. I think most people can embrace the values in the film whether you are a person of faith or not.”

During the film, the team struggles to live up to their school’s undefeated legacy and is also forced to deal with other off-field hardships, adding to their already difficult situation.

“When you have a 151-game winning-streak and you suffer a tremendous [personal] loss, it’s hard. And every year is different,” said Carter. “Every challenge is different; it’s amazing that they were able to do it for 12 years, unbelievable really.”