Ben Beck has been waiting for Thursday's high school football game all year, Estancia versus Beckman. The last time Beck faced the Patriots, he admits he went in scared.
As a sophomore last year, Coach Mike Bargas called Beck's number at halftime. This was no ordinary game. It was the first round of the CIF Southern Section Southern Division playoffs.
Going into the second half the Eagles trailed big, 42-14, at home. Going into the second half was Beck for an injured safety.
The last line of defense was Beck.
"At first, it was pretty difficult," Beck said of having to adjust to a faster tempo, compared to the junior varsity level in which he spent most of the season as a starter. "I was just getting into the defense and there's a lot to do on defense. I just had to stay back. Their receivers were really big and good. I was a little sophomore."
Beck and the Eagles felt small that night, as they lost, 56-22. The setback was the program's 10th straight in the postseason.
Estancia (3-1), ranked No. 6, gets a shot at home against No. 2 Beckman (2-2) again.
The team expects a much closer game than last year's pounding Beckman handed out before the Patriots made it to the section final. The Patriots hammered the Eagles twice that season, the first time in a 31-0 nonleague win.
The reason why Beck and his teammates are more confident this time around stems from their 43-27 upset of then-No. 3 Northwood last week. Beck lifted his team with stellar play at wide receiver and free safety.
The junior set up the game's first score by returning an interception 46 yards. Six plays later, Beck rose to the occasion again. He beat a defensive back for a ball near the goal line and scored on a 22-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brad Wilson.
The catch was one of seven by Beck, who finished with 89 yards receiving, but it wasn't his best. Midway through the third quarter, on third-and-14, he made a one-handed grab in traffic for a 25-yard gain.
The Eagles were on their way to snapping a 15-game losing streak to teams from the Pacific Coast League. They now want to start a winning streak against that league.
"Now that we proved that we could beat Northwood, it's anybody's game now, because Beckman is in [the Timberwolves'] league and [the Patriots] lost to them [17-0] last year," said Beck, who has 17 catches for 294 yards and five touchdowns, three of those scores came in the season opener in which he also returned a punt for a touchdown.
"This is the game that we're looking forward to all year, because we played them twice last year and we lost both times. We want to beat them now."
If the Eagles can stun a team from the Pacific Coast League for the second time in as many weeks, Beck feels it will send a message.
The teams from the Pacific Coast League, Beck said, are the ones Estancia has to beat to have success in the playoffs. Beckman and Northwood are two of three programs from the Pacific Coast League that reached the semifinals last year.
Teams from the Pacific Coast League have gotten in the way of the Eagles' three playoff appearances under Bargas, who's in his fifth year at the school. The goal at Estancia is to defend the Orange Coast League title, but Beck also wants to lead the program to its first playoff victory in 31 years and new heights.
"I also want to at least make it to the semifinals of CIF," said Beck, who's aware that in order for Estancia to qualify for the semifinals for the first time in its 46-year history it has to do something first in the playoffs. "We got to win that first game."
Born: April 22, 1995
Hometown: Costa Mesa
Weight: 165 pounds
Position: Wide receiver, free safety, punt returner
Coach: Mike Bargas
Favorite food: Heather's Lemon Bars
Favorite movie: "Field of Dreams"
Favorite athletic moment: "Last year in basketball when we won the Battle for the Bell by like 20 points."
Week in review: Beck finished with seven catches for 89 yards and one touchdown and returned an interception 46 yards to lead host Estancia to a 43-27 upset of then-No. 3 Northwood.