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The 'Sho' must go on

Daily Pilot High School Football Player of the Week

Estancia High senior overcame a torn ACL last year and a broken finger this season to become a key player for Eagles.

November 24, 2011|By Steve Virgen
(Don Leach / Daily…)

During Thanksgiving, Sho Watanabe will have plenty of reasons to give thanks.

The fall of 2011 is so much better than what took place during last year's football season. There wasn't much of a season for the Estancia High senior last year.

During preseason practices, Watanabe tore his right ACL and was out for the season. He didn't play a game for his new team. He had just transferred in from Newport Harbor and was ready to make an impact.

But then came the season-ending injury.

"It was devastating," Estancia Coach Mike Bargas said. "It was on the first day of our two-a-days. I'm sure he was feeling really bad and maybe second-guessing himself [on the transfer] too."

Transferring to Estancia had seemed as if it went smoothly for Watanabe. He grew up in Costa Mesa and played for the Costa Mesa Pop Warner program with many of his teammates now on the Estancia team. He said he moved back to the Costa Mesa area and was eager to play for the Eagles.

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Unfortunately for Watanabe, his Estancia debut began with adversity.

"I didn't play my entire junior year," Watanabe said. "It sucked watching everyone play. I was just supporting the team pretty much. It was still fun."

Watanabe has had more fun this year, helping the Eagles reach unprecedented heights. Last week, Estancia won its first playoff game in 31 years. The Eagles also beat cross-town rival Costa Mesa to capture the Orange Coast League championship in the regular-season finale.

But the grand feats did not come without some challenges. Watanabe, a defensive back and wide receiver, broke his left ring finger during the 35-14 win over Laguna Beach Oct. 14. He said it happened while he was blocking.

"It was painful at first," said Watanabe, who was also the team's back-up quarterback before the finger injury on his non-throwing hand. "I've gotten used to it. I'm able to play with it without realizing it's broken."

Watanabe thought about his broken finger but for a split second during a big play last week. He intercepted a pass and ran it back 65 yards for a touchdown. Before noticing open field ahead of him, Watanabe worried that his finger, with the foam and tape around it, might get in the way of his interception.

But 65 yards later, his finger was the last thing on his mind.

"After the injury I knew I was going to keep on playing," Watanabe said. "No matter what the doctor said I would keep playing. It's not the same as a knee injury. I knew I would be able to tape it up and play."

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