It’s been decades since Dennis Carter, the esteemed former sports director at WSET, called games on the radio. He sat in on George Washington High and Averett University games in the 1980s, and for a spell provided color commentary for Liberty University football broadcasts in the 1990s.
Now Carter is headed back to the airwaves. He’ll serve as color commentator alongside play-by-play announcer Jaime Hall at EC Glass football games this fall. The duo, who will be joined by Drew Gentry, will broadcast on 105.9 WLNI-FM. WLNI announced the news this week. The station will broadcast all 10 EC Glass regular-season games and follow the Hilltoppers through the postseason.
Carter signed off at WSET at the end of 2019. His career spanned more than 40 years, and he spent all but a few of them at the Lynchburg television station, where he was sports reporter/anchor and then sports director. Less than nine months after retiring, he began appearing on WLNI’s “The Sportsline” with anchor Rich Roth for a two-hour Monday-through-Friday slate.
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“It’s been a while since I’ve actually had the chance to do play-by-play or color commentary for high school sports,” Carter said after Friday’s show ended. “It’s gonna be a challenge. And it’s kind of neat for an old man to have a challenge, so I’m looking forward to it.”
EC Glass games haven’t been aired on the radio on a weekly basis for a number of years, and have instead been picked up periodically by broadcasters covering other teams or canvassing the area by reporting from different venues each week. Meanwhile, the school’s cross-town rival, the Heritage Pioneers, has been featured weekly for several years on 102.3 FM The Groove, with Bob Alvis on play-by-play and Dwayne Hamlett as analyst.
Carter, who was inducted into the Virginia Hall of Fame this spring, hopes the broadcasts — dubbed Legacy Wealth Management Hilltopper Game of the Week — will fill the void for Glass fans.
“I feel bad that they haven’t had the opportunity to have a game of the week every Friday night on the radio. A lot of teams do have that opportunity,” Carter said. “I know how much football means to Glass fans, so if they can’t get there in person, they can tune in on the radio and hear how their favorite team is doing.”
WLNI considered broadcasting games last season, but things didn’t come together in time, explained Roth, who in addition to co-hosting “The Sportsline” is president of James River Media, the station’s parent company. (Full disclosure: sports writers at this newspaper occasionally appear as guests on “The Sportsline” and other sports radio shows throughout the Lynchburg area.)
“Dennis was the driving force behind this,” Roth said. “Originally our goal was to do a game of the week [featuring different schools] because we view the radio station as a community radio station, but it was too difficult logistically, especially when so many schools have their own [broadcasts].”
During Glass’ bye week, which occurs in Week 6 on Sept. 30, WLNI will broadcast Appomattox’s game against visiting Altavista, which will give Carter a chance to croon “The Rrrraiduhhhs,” once again. That phrase, and the gravelly way he delivered it on television, became sort of a calling card for the reporter over the years.
Then it’s back to Glass games. “We will follow Glass through the playoffs, and if they get bounced, we’ll go to another team,” Roth said.
On Friday nights, “The Sportsline” will stand as the pre-game show, offered live from 5 to 6:30 pm At all but one regular-season game, Carter & Co. plan to have a tent set up for the pre-game coverage, interact with fans and offer giveaways (except on Aug. 26, when Glass opens the season at Lord Botetourt). The game itself will still be broadcast. Pre-game coverage will focus on analysis of the Hilltoppers and their opponents.
“Trying to make it a little more of a tailgate atmosphere,” Roth said.
For Carter, the new radio gig is a chance to revisit his one true sports love: covering high school events. He’s missed it since retiring, and took in a couple games last fall as a spectator after finishing studio broadcasts of “The Sportsline.” He’d mingle with friends, watch the action and wave to folks shouting out his name from the stands.
“It gets in your blood,” he said. “You enjoy going out and being part of that atmosphere on Friday nights. I feel like I’ve missed that the last two years. So I’m looking forward to getting back into the high school football swing of things. … High school sports has meant a lot to me over my career.”
Numerous radio stations throughout the area carry high school football games on Friday nights. This newspaper lists them every week during the season in its look-ahead capsules for each game.