Kyle Bettencourt may have just begun his senior year, but he’s already made it unforgettable.
Not because he’s competing for the title of valedictorian at . And not because he’s set on attending a top engineering university after he graduates.
Bettencourt, this week’s Elk Grove Athlete of the Week and a varsity midfielder for the Wolfpack’s boys soccer team, scored two goals last week in a comeback 2-1 victory over . It wasn’t just any other game—the two schools have a spirited rivalry that drew at least 500 fans and encouraged plenty of chatter on Facebook and Twitter before the match.
Yet Bettencourt’s role was surprising.
A top student who’s currently second in his class with a 4.62 grade point average, he’s considered more of an academic star. On the field, Bettencourt has often fought for playing time—he was benched during some games last year—and at one point wondered if he should continue with soccer.
This season was a fresh start under new boys coach Alejandro Murillo. Although Bettencourt entered the Franklin match in the second half as a substitute and only played about 20 minutes, he’s already getting more playing time in 2011 than in years past.
Murillo said that while Bettencourt’s heroics against Franklin were surprising, he’s happy the midfielder is getting more recognition.
“You expect him to work really hard on the field, you expect him to do whatever you ask—he’s very coachable,” said Murillo. “But he wouldn’t be a player that you expect to score the goals that changed the story of the game.”
Bettencourt said the moment is even sweeter after experiencing his share of past struggles last year.
“It was really hard, but I just had to look at it as the coach knew what he was doing and thought that somebody could play better than me,” he said. “As long as we work together and win, I’m happy.”
Elk Grove Patch spoke to Bettencourt earlier this week after soccer practice. We asked him about beating the Wolfpack’s main rival, how other students reacted, and his plans for next year.
You’ve been with the varsity team for three years and had your share of struggles in soccer, so how does it feel to have some success this year?
It feels like everything is working together. I think it’s just a result of a lot of hard work. We put in a lot of time over summer and after school. I think our coach has really brought us together and maximized our potential as a program.
Were there ever times when you considered ending your involvement with soccer because of the ups and downs?
I did, actually. I talked to my parents about it. They always instilled in me to never quit, even though I wasn’t getting the playing time and things just weren’t working out, that I needed to keep pushing and putting in the extra work because I knew I loved the sport.
The game against Franklin was unique in the fact that students hyped the matchup through social media to encourage turnout. After you helped the team win, how did your classmates react to you at school?
Everybody was just coming up to me and saying, ‘nice game’—people I’ve never talked to before. It was really cool; a great experience. My Facebook wall just blew up. But I did tell them it was such a team effort in that game. Even though I get the glory for getting the two goals, I only played a little portion of the game. It was the rest of the team that went in there and defended and kept the lead.
This is a pretty amazing start to the school year. What else could top this?
It really did make my senior year. I can’t think of anything else that would make it better. Even if I did end up getting valedictorian of my graduating class, it wouldn’t even come close to how I felt about that game. It was a huge rivalry. I felt like I was doing something for the school when I played that game, rather than doing it for myself.
Do you have any other interests outside of school and soccer? Any hobbies?
I like to fish, I like to hunt; I do that with my dad. I also like to backpack, so I do that every summer.
What are your plans for next year? Have you applied to any universities or colleges?
I want to be a civil engineer, so I want to go to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. I love the college town atmosphere there and it just seems like a great educational place.