There’s nothing about No. 2 Catholic High of New Iberia’s 7-0 run this season senior safety Bennett Pecot takes for granted.
Not after nearly losing his entire junior season to injury.
That Catholic High takes a 2-0 league mark into Friday’s District 5-2A showdown at No. 6 Opelousas Catholic (7-0, 2-0) is another opportunity Pecot will cherish in a career that’s winding to a close.
“I realize that any player, it could be your last time,” Pecot said.
Pecot’s passion for the game grew even deeper, and his appreciation for sharing precious moments with his coaches and teammates was further stoked last offseason by a knee injury that occurred while playing with the school’s summer league basketball team.
Less than three months before the start of the 2013 season, Pecot wasn’t certain whether he would get the opportunity to play for new coach Brent Indest and for a team with heightened expectations.
An MRI presented Pecot with a mixed bag of emotions: a partially torn ACL that left him and his family with the choice of playing.
Pecot opted to move forward, was fitted with a brace, tolerated the pain along the way and was rewarded with a memorable 9-4 season that nearly landed the program in a state championship game for the first time in nearly five decades.
“The doctor said I could still play if I got a brace and went to therapy,” Pecot said. “I talked to my dad, and we decided we had nothing to lose because I could get it back to 100 percent after the football season. I wanted to play for coach Indest. I wanted to play with the guys.”
Pecot held up well enough to play in all 13 of his team’s games without major incident, right until the Panthers’ heartbreaking 34-33 Division III state semifinal loss to eventual state champion Calvary Baptist.
“Sometimes he’d tweak it during a game, but he always played through it,” Indest said. “He’s a guy that runs pretty well out there struggling to move at times. But he was still the best we had, and now that he’s at full speed, it’s fun to watch him play. He’s all over the place.”
And playing well.
Pecot’s registered 31 tackles with four for losses, defended three passes and has forced a fumble and recovered another. The value, though, of the 5-foot-10, 165-pounder extends beyond sheer numbers. He also makes the defensive calls for the secondary, and his leadership and enthusiasm can become infectious.
“He’s playing as well or better than anyone we have on defense right now,” Indest said. “He’s by far our most consistent guy. He can come up and play the run and pass equally well. He’s the guy we can least afford to lose defensively.”
Though he was several months removed from the completion of therapy and given a clean bill of health, there was still the mental hurdle Pecot, like most athletes after knee injuries, had to cross in order to try and play without the aid of a brace.
Pecot worked diligently through the summer, added 15 pounds to his frame, and by the time Catholic of New Iberia lined up against Rayne for its fall scrimmage in August, was moving around and making cuts in much the same manner before the injury.
Moreover, he did so without use of the brace.
“I kept it in case my leg started to hurt again,” Pecot said. “But it’s hidden. I try not to look for it for superstitious reasons.”
Given the pace at which Catholic’s offense has scored this season — an average of 52 points per game — and the star power of Ole Miss commitment Jason Pellerin at quarterback, it’s logical for the defense to get overshadowed.
However, the Panthers have been more than just interested onlookers defensively with a shutout last week. They’ve held two other opponents to a touchdown and allow 13.4 points per game with Pecot at the front of the success.
“I worked out harder this season knowing this was my last year and knowing that anything can happen,” said Pecot, who is now playing some at wide receiver. “You have to go all out.”