Cotey: It's a bird, it's a plane ... Nope, it's an underdog

By JOHN C. COTEY, High Schools Columnist
Published January 26, 2008

WESLEY CHAPEL - With only a few minutes remaining before the start of a district championship, Jose Montelongo came running onto the field, just in time for player introductions but too late to warm up.

He put on his shoes. Threw on his jersey. Tried to get loose.

He sat on the Pasco bench.

The game started without him.

By the time Superman entered the game seven minutes in, it was scoreless, but already over.

Kryptonite awaited.

"When I didn't see him, I was kind of disappointed," said Anthony McKinney, eager to sap Superman of his powers, if not all of them, then just enough of them for his Cobras to have a chance.

"But I knew he would show up."

He showed up. But he never took flight. McKinney grabbed on tight to his cape and never let go.

"He put up a good fight," McKinney said, smiling.

When Montelongo ran, he ran. When Montelongo cut left, he cut left. When Montelongo tried to break free, McKinney could swear he smelled what the county's most prolific scorer had for dinner.

"Steak," he said. "I think."

Montelongo entered Friday's game with 47 goals, 15 assists and the single-season and career scoring records for the county. He can be unstoppable, a brilliant talent with uncanny marksmanship.

McKinney shut him out.

To be fair, it was a team effort, a Cobras defense that seemed to make the Pirates out of sorts. And if not for a remarkable sliding save by Taylor Lamphier on a point-blank shot by Montelongo, maybe it's a different game.

Lamphier, by the way, is not a goalie. It was that kind of night for the Cobras defense, which took the district title from the four-time defending champions.

While the smattering of Pasco fans walked off, a dozen cell phones and cameras captured the moment, smiling Cobras quite proud, and probably a little surprised, at the ease of the 5-2 win.

Who knew the Cobras had a following?

It was all just how McKinney imagined it, really, when he walked up to coach Paul Vescio at practice the day before and said give me Superman.

"Let me have him," Vescio said, recalling the conversation. "That's what he said."

Vescio said sure, but not until he called one of his coaching buddies to ask if marking Montelongo with one guy was the way to go (answer: yes, and go for it) did he settle on the strategy.

McKinney knew all along he'd get the call. He went to bed thinking about Montelongo, woke up and saw the Pirate in his corn flakes, and waited eagerly for him to show up Friday.

So you know, Montelongo is not why Pasco lost. They lost because Hudson won, because Scotty Combs decided he was going to score three goals and be the man on this night, because they were going to play harder than the Pirates, show the will of a team that wanted it more.

And McKinney.

A burly sophomore with a linebacker's face and lines shaved into the side of his new haircut, he stepped up and begged for a challenge against a more talented foe, a challenge few thought he had any chance of pulling off.

He smiled at a pretty girl who said she loved him, then filled his equipment bag with his shoes, shin guards and something that looked a lot like a red cape.