Princeton’s Carlos Benavidez gets a leg up

Tigers place-kicker will turn in football cleats for soccer shoes for the University of Dubuque

Princeton's place kicker Carlos Benavidez makes a field goal to give the Tigers their first three-points against Montini Catholic on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023 at Bryant Field in Princeton.

Carlos Benavidez has been an ace place-kicker for the Princeton Tiger playoff football teams.

He converted 26 of 29 extra points and kicked one field goal (29 yards) along the way on the Tigers’ 3A quarterfinal run last year. He had 40 kickoffs, averaging 51.8 with a long of 60 yards, including nine touchbacks.

As a junior, Benavidez made 62 PATs and two field goals.

Benavidez is going to use those kicking skills in a new, but familiar way.

The recent Princeton graduate will be kicking for the University of Dubuque soccer team, rather than football.

While he hasn’t played high school soccer for two years, concentrating solely on football, he has kept in the game playing for the John Gaspar club team in Peoria for about the last 10 years playing in the spring.

Even with his love for soccer, Benavidez always had the itch to give football a try.

“Coach P (Ryan Pearson) has been talking to me about playing and I knew I always wanted to play,” he said. “My high school career was coming to an end pretty quick, so thought I might as well try it out. I’m glad I did. I loved every single part of it.”

Benavidez was just not a kicker for the Tigers. He was a football player.

He worked his way into a starting role on the Tigers’ defense as a senior and became an all-conference corner back. He had two interceptions and averaged 2.5 tackles per game.

“He started out his career much like his brother (Steven). They were soccer kids coming up,” PHS coach Ryan Pearson said. “He started out as a kicker and his love for the game grew and he wanted to be more than a kicker. In his senior year, he not only was heckuva kicker for us, but he became an all-conference corner.

“For a kid that only played football for two years and becomes an all-conference corner speaks volumes to the athletic ability Carlos has.”

The best part of playing football at PHS, Benavidez said, was playing at home in the “Jungle.”

“The atmosphere at Bryant Field was insane. I loved seeing all our fans coming out on Friday night,” he said.

Benavidez said there’s really not many differences between kicking a football and a soccer ball.

“It just felt so natural kicking a football,” he said. “I kind of just hit it mid-height, I’d say, just like I kick soccer balls. Felt very natural to me.”

A center midfielder in soccer, Benavidez said he chose Dubuque for the opportunity to play right away.

“I’m very, very excited. Can’t wait for the season to start,” said Benavidez, who plans to study cyber security. “I just love it there. I watched two games. I love the coach. I love the players. Their facility is unreal.”

Another Tiger football player, Andrew Peacock, will also be going to Dubuque to pole vault for the Spartans’ track and field team. They will be joined on campus by PHS alum, Grady Thompson, a sophomore member of the Dubuque basketball team.

Recent Princeton graduate Carlos Benavidez recently signed to play soccer for the University of Dubuque. He was joined at his signing by his parents (front)  Rod and Sondra Benavidez; and (back row) PHS coaches Nick Lowe and Ryan Pearson.