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From knees to TDs, Edison's Atencio brings an 'amazing' effort
HUNTINGTON BEACH – It’s not how David Atencio envisioned his first trip to Europe playing out: Hobbling along the streets of Austria on crutches, shoving days worth of “sightseeing” into a meager couple of hours, his overall mental state anywhere but the scenic foreign country.
This wasn’t a vacation. It was a business trip in many regards, one with plenty of ramifications that Edison’s gifted two-sport star had no control over.
After suffering an ACL tear this past summer – initially injuring it playing basketball and fully tearing it at a 7-on-7 passing tournament – Atencio was told he would miss his entire junior campaign in both sports.
It wasn’t long after he and his family learned about the LARS (Ligament Augmentation & Reconstruction System) technique, a surgery that replaces the damaged area with synthetic ligaments.
CIF-SS Division 3
Edison at La Mirada, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Atencio found himself on a plane bound for Austria in early July with a faint hope that he would be able to salvage at least some of his junior year.
“I’m trying to get in a full season at this point,” the Chargers wideout said Tuesday afternoon, as he joined his teammates in one of their last practices before playing La Mirada in the CIF-SS Division 3 final Friday night.
Atencio didn’t return just for the championship game. To the shock of many, he returned weeks ago, having turned an expected year-long rehab process into a rapid, mind-blowing 12-week turnaround.
The game Friday will be his ninth of the season,
“I can’t even tell you how amazing it is,” Chargers coach Dave White explained. “Twelve weeks after ACL surgery, he’s playing football. And not only that, he’s been playing really well. He’s making key plays for us. Just look at last week’s game on the final drive of the game.”
Since returning in Week 6, Atencio has hauled in 32 passes for 485 yards and six touchdowns. He has recorded three 100-plus yard games, including a six-catch, 100-yard effort against Rancho Verde in the semifinals last Friday.
On what turned out to be the game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter, White noted, it was Atencio who came up to him on the sideline and suggested a play based on the defense’s coverage.
“We ended up calling the play,” the longtime coach acknowledged. “Some kids come up to you and say, ‘I can beat this guy on this play,’ and they’re saying that because they want the ball. David’s got football savvy. We ran the play, he beat his guy on a little hitch-and-go, and that helped set up the touchdown.”
With Atencio back in the fold alongside senior standouts Shaun Colamonico – who missed four games midseason with a hairline fracture of the fibula – and EJ Ginnis, the Chargers’ aerial attack has been wreaking havoc on opposing secondaries.
Edison is 8-0 since the start of league play when Atencio returned. Quarterback Griffin O’Connor is averaging close to 260 yards a game over that stretch, and has tossed 23 touchdowns to just two interceptions.
“It’s like we’re back to 7-on-7’s,” Colamonico said. “It’s electrifying with all of us out there at one time.”
Ginnis, who came into his own with Colamonico and Atencio sidelined, added that a healthy core of receivers benefitted O’Connor as much as it did running back Jack Carmichael.
“You don’t realize the type of pressure those guys take off everybody else until they’re out there,” he said of Atencio and Colamonico. “The openings they bring are crazy. Not only for myself, but for the run game too. David is a technician, such a great route-runner. And Shaun, Shaun is the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time).
“Since weeks 8, 9 and 10, we’ve been on a roll. We’re feeling it right now.”
If Edison can stay hot and knock off top-seeded La Mirada, the Chargers will send White off with his second CIF-SS title. They’d also extend their season by qualifying for next week’s regional bowl games.
“This will be game No. 9 for me,” Atencio remarked. “A full 10 is what I was hoping for. I got more games in me. I feel great.”