Aug. 25—Talan Carver loves playing in the trenches as a two-way starter for the Muhlenberg County High School football team, and he's planning to make the most of his senior season for a Mustangs program that is attempting to transform its culture.
So far, so good.
Muhlenberg opened the 2023 season last Friday with a 22-6 conquest of visiting Caverna; this, after winning two of its final three games last fall. Tonight, the Mustangs invade Calhoun for a tougher test in a border rival game against McLean County.
"Winning helps in a lot of ways, and I felt like we did some good things on both sides of the line against Caverna," said Carver, a four-year varsity starter who possesses a 4.0 grade point average in the classroom. "We came out with a chip on our shoulders because we haven't started the season with a win in recent seasons.
"So, now we've gained a little momentum. This has given us confidence as a team, and it's gotten our fans excited. We just need to keep it going with consistent play on both offense and defense, keep our heads up no matter what and make the most of the opportunity in front of us."
A right guard on offense and an end on defense, Carver is a foundational member of the football program, according to Mustangs head coach Josh Staples.
"Talan has been everything you want in a player to coach," Staples said. "Anytime the doors are open, he's in there early, and he's staying late. I'm proud of the work ethic he has exhibited for all the younger players in the program."
Carver began playing football as a first-grader in a Muhlenberg County youth program — getting a boost of encouragement from his grandfather, Ed McCarraher, a longtime, highly-respected coach in the region.
"I was a basketball and baseball player, and my grandfather suggested I play football," said Carver, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 210 pounds. "I tried football, and I really liked it right from the start. I like the friendships you make and the camaraderie that comes with being part of a team — everybody having each other's back.
"I also like the physicality of the game — you can hit people in football and not get in trouble for it. That's why I like being in the trenches. There's contact on every play."
Carver's goal for his final high school season is lofty, considering the Mustangs haven't enjoyed a winning season since going 7-4 in 2016.
"I want us to put together a winning season, and I really believe the potential is there for us to make it happen," Carver said. "We just need to continue to grow closer as a team, embrace the challenges in front of us, step on the field and get the job done.
"Coach Staples is a really good coach, and he has us ready to play this season more than any before. We put in a lot of work in the offseason and the preseason, and we're excited about becoming a better team."
Mustang fans can count on Carver to lead the way — in more ways than one.
"I try to lead by my actions, try to lead by example," Carver said. "Not just on the football field, but in my academics, and in everything I do. I try to be a good human being, in general, and set the right example even beyond football."
Now, it's all about Carver and Co. maintaining their momentum.
"We just need to play our hearts out every game and become a second-half team," Carver said. "On offense, we need to keep our heads right and execute the plays as a unit, and on defense we need to pursue the football with everything we've got.
"If we can do all this throughout the season, we're going to be in pretty good shape."