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WESLEY CHAPEL - Vince Chalecki woke up Friday convinced he should take a gamble.
The Wesley Chapel senior linebacker will attempt to play this fall, hoping to land a scholarship and forgoing knee surgery that would have ended his high school career.
"I decided I'm going to try and play this year," Chalecki said. "I just woke up and it hit me. I felt I should play. I've always wanted to play college football. I have to take a chance."
Chalecki tore a posterior cruciate ligament during a 16-15 loss to Gaither on Sept. 30. He skipped surgery to focus on strengthening the support muscles in his right leg. The tear grew slightly during Wesley Chapel's spring game last month. Chalecki believes playing, if only for part of the season, should keep colleges interested. He knows surgery awaits him whether his knee fails or lasts all season.
"I want to go to college and play football," Chalecki said. "That's the bottom line. That's the only way I'm going to go is if I play this season."
To help ease the burden, Wildcats coach John Castelamare will limit Chalecki to playing linebacker, where he had 89 tackles last season before he went down. He was a significant contributor as a running back.
The 5-foot-11, 220-pounder has received interest from Florida Atlantic, Florida A&M, Florida International, Stanford, Louisville and Ohio.
Chalecki also plans to replace an "off-the-shelf" knee brace for one that is custom fit. That should help with stability.
"You're talking about one of the best football players in the county," Castelamare said. "He's started since he was a ninth-grader. ... He knows he has a problem with the knee. ... I've had six (knee surgeries). Knees are something when something's wrong they rarely go back to normal."
Chalecki left Friday for Ohio to spend the next three weeks with his father; it's also where he will begin offseason conditioning.
"If something goes wrong during the season he would be okay in terms of college," Castelamare said. "Everyone knows how good he is. I think he has his mind set on trying again."
Wiregrass Ranch announced Chris Parrish has accepted an offer to become the school's first baseball coach. Parrish was an assistant at Wesley Chapel last season.