Beck gives Estancia special returns

For those who attended the Battle for the Bell, or who read about it last week, Ben Beck's 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown proved to be the difference.

Estancia High beat Costa Mesa, 15-13, after Beck took one back for the second time in as many weeks. None of those two returns compare to his return from a serious right foot injury last year.

Getting back on the field to play special teams, or wide receiver and free safety wasn't automatic for Beck.

The player who outran the Mustangs to the end zone last week couldn't go at full speed in last year's rivalry game. Beck said last year's game against Costa Mesa was his first back from a Lisfranc foot injury suffered in the fifth game of the season.

"It wasn't fully healed," said Beck, referring to when he came back from the injury in which ligaments that supported his midfoot tore. "I was just hesitant."

Coach Mike Bargas said Beck was gun shy. The setback slowed Beck down last year during the stretch run of the Eagles' historic season.

While the team claimed a second straight undefeated Orange Coast League title and made the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Southern Division playoffs, Beck wasn't himself. He said he was dropping a lot of passes as a receiver.

His coach understood why Beck was struggling.

"We know he's got the tools, and sometimes when you get injuries like that, it's easier said than done to go out there and just go ahead and play," Bargas said. "You have that fear of reinjuring it. At the end of the day, these guys are 16- and 17-year-old kids."

Beck is 17 years old now. Bargas wasn't sure how the teenager would respond to his senior year.

Not helping matters was Beck missing a couple of practices during two-a-days before the season. Missing time during training camp is usually a big no-no.

Bargas is well aware that Beck is a busy kid. On top of playing two others sports, baseball and basketball, Beck is the Associated Student Body president at school.

When the ASB president told the man in charge of the football program that he was going to a camp while the rest of his teammates prepared for the season, Beck said it was tough.

"He just told me that I probably won't play the first game," Beck said. "I wanted to play, but at the same time I had to go."

Beck said he went to a baseball camp at Brown University. Baseball is his No. 1 sport.

Not making football the top priority had its consequences.

"We sat him out the first game," said Bargas, who only allowed Beck to return punts in the second half of the Eagles' 17-0 season-opening win against Loara. "He wasn't the only guy, a couple of guys missed. You try to be equitable with everybody.

"He's a good kid. He didn't do anything wrong. He was put in a bad situation and there had to be a repercussion because we're the sport of season. He made the decision, so we dealt with it and there was no ill will."

With the short time away, Bargas said Beck found himself playing catch up.

Other players got chances and they moved up the depth chart at positions Beck played. Bargas projected Beck as a two-way starter, but after the first game, Beck was rotating with Levi Stillman, Henry Vasquez and Seth Bargas at receiver and backing up Cole Mensinger at free safety.

It wasn't until ankle injuries to Robert Murtha and DeionTe Haywood in the third and fourth games of the season that Beck got his shot to return kickoffs full time. He has taken off ever since.

Beck's first kickoff return for a touchdown impressed Bargas the most because of who it came against, Sonora, a bigger school and one Estancia had never played. The 92-yard return gave the Eagles a lead in the second quarter of a nonleague road game they won, 24-18.

The latest return by Beck turned out to be the game-changer in the 46th edition of the Battle for the Bell.

The play is the most memorable one to Beck, who has a knack for beating the Mustangs, no matter the sport. He's done it in baseball by scoring the winning run in the seventh inning, in basketball by banking in what he called a lucky three-point shot at the buzzer, and now in football by returning a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown 3 1/2 minutes into the third quarter.

The last score, coming in the league opener, almost never happened. If it wasn't for Beck's heads up play to field the kick on a hop at the one, without his back foot stepping into the end zone, the Eagles don't tie it at 13-13, with a chance to go ahead with a two-point try.

"I was thinking that the whole time because [Costa Mesa kicker] Jake Lux was kicking it in the end zone every time," Beck said. "When I got [the ball], I was thinking [about] taking it back the whole time because we needed a big boost [after Costa Mesa opened the second half with a touchdown to go ahead, 13-7].

"People were pretty down [after Costa Mesa took the lead]. I always like to get the team back into it."

Beck swung the momentum on one play. He went right, the right decision on the kickoff return.

As he exploded toward the sideline, only the kicker had an angle on No. 5. Beck just kicked it into a different gear, the kind Bargas hoped he would.

"He's going all out this year," Bargas said.

Twitter: @DCPenaloza


Ben Beck

Born: April 22, 1995

Hometown: Costa Mesa

Height: 6-foot

Weight: 160 pounds

Sport: Football

Year: Senior

Coach: Mike Bargas

Favorite food: Steak

Favorite movie: "Field of Dreams"

Favorite athletic moment: "Last week, the [99-yard kickoff] return [for a touchdown to beat Costa Mesa]."

Week in review: Beck returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter, helping Estancia defeat Costa Mesa, 15-13, in the 46th edition of the Battle for the Bell. Eagles have won 12 straight Orange Coast League games dating back to 2009.

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