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OCC's Betts separates from pack

Community College Football

Pirates freshman running back outruns defenders, as well as a difficult past, to lead state in rushing yards.

September 29, 2011|By Barry Faulkner
(Kevin Chang / Daily…)

When Domenic Betts breaks through a hole up the middle, or turns the corner on pursuing defenders, there are indications that the geometry of the game will interrupt his path to progress.

Just then, it seems, Betts accelerates, sparking the ignition on the kind of speed that has seldom, if ever, been seen in an Orange Coast College football uniform. It's this rare burst that distorts the typically successful triangulation of would-be tacklers and catapults the 5-foot-10, 195-pound freshman running back ahead of all who threaten to chase him down.

Three years removed from his last season — his senior campaign at Banning High in 2008 — Betts, 20, strives to outrun more than defenders. He is also sprinting away from a past that nearly put the brakes on his dream of playing football in college and, perhaps, beyond.

"I'm looking to score," Betts said of his foremost thought on every carry. "Whatever way I can score, however I can do it, I'm looking to score."

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Having been clocked at 4.31 seconds over 40 yards and boasting strength that allows him to squat 745 pounds, Betts is once again accumulating yards and points on the football field. But in reality, the end zone is merely the foreground to his ultimate destination.

"[Banning] was bad, really bad," said Betts, who realized at an early age that there were more promising soft spots in the neutral zone than on the streets of his home town. "Football was the only good thing in the city. I knew the only way I could be anything successful was football and school.

"Just seeing my friends; that they didn't go to no school and they didn't play no sport," said Betts, who leads the state community college ranks in total rushing yards (718 on 82 carries), and rushing yards per game (179.5). "I didn't want to go down the road they wanted to go down."

That road included gang violence, drugs and, for some of Betts' childhood friends, incarceration and death.

And while Betts said he managed to avoid the gang activity that sometimes brought police investigators to his high school football practices, the opportunity to make bad choices proved more difficult to avoid than charging linebackers.

Betts rushed for more than 1,500 yards as a sophomore at Banning, but spent his junior year at a continuation school, after marijuana use, depression and feelings of isolation temporarily diluted his focus on his football dreams.

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