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Injury or no, expect Pirates standout to take the field

By Izzy Gould
Published February 8, 2007


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DADE CITY - Pasco coach Barry Grayling fed light passes to the 10 players who made it to Burks Park on Wednesday afternoon.

Light drills and a few laughs were one way to stay loose after Tuesday's 4-1 win over Crystal River to advance to Friday's Class 4A region final at Ponte Vedra Beach Nease 21-3-1.

And where was Jose Montelongo? Nowhere to be seen. The junior forward is expected to miss today's practice as well to treat a strained right hamstring.

Ask any of his teammates Wednesday and there seemed to be little concern. They believe he'll play.

"It's not that bad," Grayling said. "I think it's more of a strain or a pull. He was walking pretty loose today (at school). I'm going to tell you right now, even if it doesn't get better Joe's going to strap it up and play. You can't say no to him."

Montelongo scored his 31st goal Wednesday, which turned out to be the winner for a 2-1 lead against Crystal River. His injury came with two minutes left in the first half. He was helped off the field by a pair of assistants and continued to limp throughout the night. He did not return to the game.

On Wednesday, Montelongo was in school and, as it turned out, did not require an MRI as first thought. Some of Montelongo's teammates reported seeing him in school walking on his own. Grayling said he did not wear any type of bandage.

"We really need him," senior Luis Ortiz said. "He and Ramon Rodriguez do everything for us up top. He's an important player."

Grayling adjusted to Montelongo's absence, rotating sophomores Romas Farias and Evaristo Martinez, and junior Roberto Martinez.

Pasco adjusted its formation with less than 20 minutes left, going to a 4-5-1, which created a goal and one more missed opportunity by Roberto Cervantes that sailed over the net.

Grayling said Montelongo's absence was noticeable.

"Nobody's head went down even though they knew he wouldn't play the rest of the game," Grayling said. "...Every team changes its outlook when your best player goes down. You have to make do, and that's what the boys did."

Izzy Gould can be reached at igould@tampabay.com or (813) 909-4619.

[Last modified February 7, 2007, 23:32:51]


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