Last season Isaac Benavides finished with a team-high of 84 tackles for the King City Mustangs. (Contributed)

KING CITY — Last season the King City Mustangs had to replace a lot of key players on its defense with several newcomers making their first varsity appearance, including linebacker Isaac Benavides.

For the first time in his high school career, Benavides got an opportunity to start in a varsity game last year. He showed that he can be a key player on the Mustangs’ defense, as he led with 14 tackles in their first game against their rivals, the Greenfield Bruins.

“That first game was crazy,” Benavides said. “It had high tension and high energy from beginning to end. It was super fun because it was a big rivalry game to start the season.”

This journey to get to this point all started back when Benavides played for the King City Mustangs youth football group.

“I’ve been playing for a while,” he said. “I remember growing up with this sport since elementary until now.”

When Benavides earned the starting linebacker spot last season, he didn’t let the pressure get to him. In his first game, he had 14 tackles, which was his personal best. He would go on to earn first-team all-league honors as a linebacker, and when he got the call from his coach, he couldn’t believe it.

“I was surprised when I was told I made it,” he said. “When the coach called me, I didn’t know how to take it at first.”

Last season Benavides finished with a team-high of 84 tackles.

For as good of a season as Benavides had on defense, he knows last season could have been better. One area that he knows he has to improve on is when it comes to running the ball.

“I think I did good helping the team,” he said. “But I need to improve when it comes to running the ball.”

Last year the Mustangs had problems running the ball. Benavides admits that his fumbling problem and injury to other running backs kept them from establishing any type of running game.

“We had a lot of running backs get hurt, which stopped us from establishing the run game,” he said. “Last year, it was on me also since I fumbled a lot.”

Going into this offseason, Benavides’ point of focus is holding onto the ball better. During practice, he is having teammates always trying to rip them out.

“This offseason, I’m working on my fumbling problem,” he said. “I’m having my teammates try to punch the ball out at practice.”

Also going into this new season, Benavides has his sight on the school record for tackles in a season. For as long as King City High School has been around, it’s hard to know what the tackle record is, but Benavides is set to have his name in the record books.

“I want to get more tackles than last year,” he said. “I want to break the school record in tackles. I don’t know what the record is, but I’m coming for it.”

Going into this season, the Mustangs will have to replace a couple of players who played key roles in their offense and defense. Benavides believes that they have enough talent coming back that they are going to be better than last year.

“I think we have the players to be better than last year,” he said. “In the beginning, we might struggle in some spots, but when league play starts, I believe in my team’s ability to get stuff done.”

Benavides is excited to show the league that the Mustangs are ready to take a leap, and he believes the Aug. 31 game against Palma that the team will be able to find out where they are.

“This is going to be a fun game for us,” he said. “We get to see where we stand, and it’s going to help us develop our skills.”

One reason why Benavides feels confident is because of his coaches. He believes in them not because of how much football they may know, but how they treat their players like family.

“Our coaches are great,” he said. “They treat us all as family. If they see that we are having a bad day, they will make sure to pull us aside and talk to us.”

This season, Benavides will be looked upon to step up and be a leader on the team. As a self-proclaimed goofball, he will have to determine the balance in the way he leads.

“I’m going to try my best to take up a leadership role,” he said. “Off the field, the team knows how I act. I’m a goofball off the field. I’m going to be the goofy captain.”

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Jason Gallardo is the sports reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers high school sports for South Monterey County.


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