On Saturday afternoon in New Haven, Conn., in the 11th week of regular-season action, a pair of Division II football rivals clashed at the 6,000-seat Jess Dow Field.
The visiting Pace Setters, who came in 0-10, carried the burden of a 39-game losing skein dating back to the second week of the 2011 season against the 1-9 Southern Connecticut University Owls. Pace ended up defeating Southern Connecticut, 10-7.
As he had all season, former Springstead signal caller Brian Beeker alternated under center calling cadence, or lined up as a wideout.
The 5-foot-9, 193-pound Beeker has bulked up from his playing days in Spring Hill.
As a senior at the Mariner Boulevard campus, Beeker rolled up almost 2,000 yards (1,975) of offense in a stellar 2010 campaign under Bill Vonada.
Running the complicated veer option, Beeker rushed for a career-best 1,239 yards and nine touchdowns – just behind NCT’s Ike Bailey’s 1,298 yards and 11 touchdowns for the county rushing title – to complement his county-leading 736 passing yards and eight touchdown passes against three interceptions.
Beeker, a 2010 All-County football selection, signed with New York City-based Pace, and has transitioned into more of a pocket passer.
Across four seasons, Beeker was not the option threat he was at SHS collecting a total 196 net yards and two touchdowns. Through the air, however, he clicked on 174-of-347 passes for 1,682 yards and 11 touchdown passes.
When the Setters utilized him at receiver, he also delivered with 28 career receptions for 282 yards.
But like all competitors, Beeker simply wanted to go out a winner Saturday with a victory over the Owls. Pace’s 1-40 mark during his career coming in upset him to no end.
“This year I started out as a starter at quarterback and threw three touchdown passes, but I didn’t have a great game in Week 2 and we started alternating,” he recalled. “If it helps the team for me to play at a different position, that’s fine.”
As one of the Setters’ team captains, Beeker is focused solely on giving his best.
“Hopefully, we get a win and I end my senior year with a victory,” he said. “Honestly, it’s been a struggle here. It might not show on the scoreboard, but you can tell with the new coaching staff that this (team) is headed in a good direction. Even the new football facilities will be ready next year.”
A lack of leadership was cited as the key detriment.
“When I got here, we had 56 freshmen in my class,” recalled Beeker. “We have 10 seniors on this year’s team and I’m one of only five kids who have stuck it out all four years. It’s been a constant rotation. Every year a lot of kids who started here left for this reason or that.
“Because of that, there’s not enough leadership,” pointed out Beeker. “It’s like we’ve been a young team every season.”
On impact of the dubious 39-game losing streak, “It’s been hard on all of us,” he said. “Mentally, it’s real tough and then after the game you’ve got to hear it from the fans and kids in school, too.”
Looking on the bright side, “This experience will make us all better people,” insisted the 21-year-old Beeker. “It’s about dealing with adversity, something we’ll have to deal with every day in life. But as a player, losing sucks.”
Beeker believes he’s grown the most as a pocket passer with his film study.
At Springstead he remembers watching film, but at Pace he studies film looking for his opponent’s tendencies and reading coverages.
In his transition from runner to passer, “I bulked up for college and as a result, I lost some speed,” he says. “But passing-wise, I’ve gotten much better. I’ve become a better player mentally. I’ve learned what the defenses are trying to do.”
On his reliance on his offensive line, “I wish I was here a little longer,” Beeker said.
“They’re just starting to click as a group. Our right guard has been here four years and that’s helped a lot. Our right tackle was a former nose guard and has done a great job.”
Regardless of Saturday’s outcome between the lines in Connecticut, Beeker could be considered a bigger winner in the game of life.
In the classroom, Beeker has also elevated his game carrying a 3.0 grade point average, and will graduate on time next summer with a degree in criminal justice.
“My grades are very important,” insisted Beeker, who aspires to follow his father’s path as a police officer in Miami. “My family has a lot of police and military background. I’d love to go one level past anyone in my family.”
Beeker dreams of eventually becoming an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or Drug Enforcement Administration.
“I didn’t have the best grades in Springstead, but I’ve realized just how important they are,” he said. “If I don’t become a federal agent, I may come home and join the police academy.”
On what he would say to any prospective Hernando County student/athlete, “I’d tell them to take your school work as important as they do playing football, “ he insisted. “Pay attention to your studies. If you do, it’ll help any student have a broader choice for college. If you can balance your studies and sports, you’ll have a better future.”
By the numbers: Pace’s Brian Beeker (2011-14)
– Compiled by TONY CASTRO
YR ATT COMP .PCT YDS TD
2011 5 3 .600 75 1
2012 34 18 .529 254 2
2013 131 61 .466 589 5
2014 177 92 .520 764 3
TOTALS 347 174 .501 1,682 11
YR ATT YDS AVG TD
2012 39 139 3.56 0
2013 75 41 0.55 1
2014 41 16 0.39 1
TOTALS 155 196 1.26 2
YR REP YDS YPC TD
2011 1 7 7.00 0
2013 27 275 10.2 0
TOTALS 28 282 10.1 0