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Mon. September 28, 2009 | Keith Niebuhr

DUNEDIN -- To understand how important linebacker Ali Cheaib is to the Dunedin football program, all one needs to know is this: He was the Falcons’ MVP in 2008.

But last week, Cheaib couldn’t play against Countryside.

The previous week, he saw limited action against Pinellas Park.

The reason? He’s experiencing some pretty bad shoulder pain.

“It’s really been bothering him,” Falcons coach Mark Everett said.

Cheaib’s absence has been a significant blow to a young team that has struggled to an 0-4 start after losses to Largo, Tarpon Springs, Pinellas Park and Countryside -- teams that are a combined 14-2.

“The Countryside game was real hard on him,” Everett said. “He had a monster game against Largo but hasn’t played much since. He got hurt in practice before the Tarpon game. He played against Tarpon but we pulled him out early against Pinellas Park. At first, he was mad at me, but I told him he has too much of a future in college for me to use him just because I want to win.”

According to Everett, Cheaib’s doctors have yet to determine what precisely is wrong. In the meantime, “his physical therapist has been trying to work out the soreness,” Everett said.

Dunedin plays host to Gibbs on Friday.

Cheaib is questionable.

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