In agony, Tyler Thomas asked his dad for one thing before he took him to the hospital eight weeks ago.
"I wanted In-N-Out [Burger]," says Thomas, who soon found out he would be out of the lineup for the Estancia High football team.
Thomas learned the pain from that night on Sept. 20 was due to injuries he suffered on the field while playing at Irvine High.
Irvine is where Christopher Thomas, Tyler's father, played football. He watched his alma mater take down Estancia, 40-6, and his son.
The young Thomas says he dislocated his left shoulder and fractured his collarbone. The injury happened while catching a short pass as a fullback. Right after his shoulder crashed onto the turf, with a tackler landing on the same shoulder, Thomas got back on his feet. The trainer looked at him, clearing him, and he continued to play.
Everything seemed fine, Coach Mike Bargas says. When the game ended, Thomas wasn't doing so well. The trip to In-N-Out Burger and the 4x4 burger he ate, Thomas says, eased the pain.
Thomas says his left shoulder felt numb. After the doctors told him he would miss time, the news numbed him as well.
Thomas sat out four games. The Eagles lost three of those contests and their CIF Southern Section Southern Division playoff hopes looked bleak. They opened Orange Coast League play with two setbacks.
In the third league game on Oct. 25, Thomas made it back. Estancia hasn't dropped a game since.
Thomas' return catapulted the Eagles, who won their final three league games to finish second and qualify for the postseason for the fifth straight year. The biggest obstacle during the stretch came in the league finale Friday at home against Calvary Chapel.
"It was either win or see our season end," Thomas says.
Thomas' performance at middle linebacker kept Estancia alive. The junior led the defense in slowing down Calvary Chapel en route to pulling off a 24-14 upset at Jim Scott Stadium.
Thomas made 20 tackles (14 solo), intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble. The Eagles became only the second team to hold Calvary Chapel to 14 or fewer points this year.
It wasn't supposed to play out that way, as the Eagles from Calvary Chapel were the ones soaring past everyone before last week. They went into the matchup against Estancia averaging 50 points in the previous seven games.
"I think they didn't expect us to be [in it]," Bargas says. "Calvary's a high-powered football team, but we're scrappy."
The Eagles fought their way into another first-round playoff date with Los Amigos. The teams met last year, with Los Amigos easily winning at Jim Scott Stadium, 41-14.
Thomas didn't see much action last year, but he says he and the rest of the Eagles (5-5) will be ready for host Los Amigos (8-2) on Friday at Bolsa Grande High at 7 p.m.
One player who embodies the way Bargas-led Estancia teams play is Thomas. He isn't a talker. He's humble.
On the field, he's a terror.
He disrupted Calvary Chapel's no-huddle spread offense, knocking down passes, plugging up holes and bringing down whoever had the ball Friday night.
Estancia forced five turnovers, two of which Thomas got his hands on. The only thing missing from his evening was a visit to In-N-Out Burger.
Thomas went home after the game. He's healthy and doesn't need a burger to satisfy his hunger. The taste of victory is more than enough.
Born: July 24, 1997
Hometown: Wichita, Kan.
Weight: 205 pounds
Coach: Mike Bargas
Favorite food: Sushi
Favorite movie: “300”
Favorite athletic moment: “The Calvary [Chapel] game [last week] when I got my first pick.”
Week in review: Thomas made 20 tackles (14 solo), intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble, helping Estancia beat Calvary Chapel, 24-14, and earn the Orange Coast League’s second berth into CIF Southern Section Southern Division playoffs.