A defining moment in Wesley Chapel's season came in a 3-2 comeback win against Hudson.
Not only did that Jan. 16 game provide a yardstick for the Wildcats, since they beat a team that last season won conference and district championships before advancing to the region finals, but it was a showcase for Wesley Chapel's offensive standouts.
Bryan Sumner emerged from a crowd in front of the Cobras net to head the ball to Gabe Montelongo, who roofed a shot just under the crossbar for the tying goal. Later, Montelongo headed in Sumner's corner kick for the winner.
Another victory thanks to Wesley Chapel's recordsetting leaders in goals and points (Montelongo, 31 and 72) and assists (Sumner, 14).
That duo helped lead Wesley Chapel to a 14-5-4 record and 6-1-3 mark in Class 4A, District 10, good enough for a bye as the second seed in this week's tournament at Wildcat Stadium.
"They're pretty even, really," Wesley Chapel coach Brian Dorkowski said. "Gabe's just a better finisher, but Bryan's the best all-around player."
Last season, Wesley Chapel snuck up on the opposition, finishing 10-7-5 for its first winning season. Having experienced playoff victories _ Wesley Chapel made it to the region semifinals last season _ Montelongo and Sumner make the Wildcats a legitimate contender for the state final four.
Montelongo tallied a then-record 17 goals last season while splitting time as a defender and forward. He has spent his entire senior season at forward, which has led to his recordbreaking pace and allowed others to get open.
"Last year, I had to leave (Montelongo) back a lot of the time," Dorkowski said.
But with the emergence of defenders Phillip Rossi, Sean Kelly, Adrian Phan, Matt Atkins and Larry Waywood, Dorkowski felt he could move Montelongo up front without hurting the defense.
"He's got good speed and he's got a good move to the net," Dorkowski said of Montelongo. "He doesn't take a lot of shots, but when he shoots he scores."
Sumner, a junior midfielder who also has seven goals, broke teammate Jose Arroyo's school assist record (10 last season), in part, because defenders double-team Montelongo.
"As far as playing offense and defense, he does all the dirty work," Dorkowski said of Sumner. "He does more than what shows up in the stats; just chasing a guy down and coming up with the ball. Bryan does a lot of the grunt work to get Gabe the ball and Gabe gets all the publicity."
While Montelongo and Sumner draw most of the attention of opposing defenders, Arroyo and Rossi add scoring balance. Arroyo, a junior midfielder, has 10 goals and 12 assists, and Rossi (nine goals) occasionally ventures toward the net.
"He can outrun most players," Dorkowski said of Arroyo, adding, "I don't want it all to fall on Gabe's shoulders."
But sometimes the offensive burden does fall on Montelongo and that's where Dorkowski has faith in his 6-foot-3 forward.
"Gabe is usually bigger and stronger than most players, so he can win the ball in the air," Dorkowski said.