CHICAGO HEIGHTS | Back in August, Bloom Township football Coach Tony Palombi wasn’t sure if he’d have one of his biggest weapons for the upcoming season.
Blazing Trojans defensive end James Coleman had a decision to make: should he come back and play football or focus on playing basketball.
“He’s a basketball player as well,” Palombi said. “He’d been playing AAU basketball all summer and we weren’t sure if he was coming out or not.”
Palombi wasn’t the only person in the Bloom Township program that wasn’t sure what Coleman would do once football season started.
“I’ve gotten some looks for basketball so I was focusing on that,” Coleman said. “But when the season was about to start I just couldn’t see myself not out here and not being with the guys. I’m glad I came back. It’s all about the team.”
Although every coach wants players with Coleman’s size (6-4, 235) and raw athleticism there is more to Colman than just the physical tools he brings.
“He’s got great character,” Palombi said. “Since double sessions started he’s impressed us with his work ethic and his dedication. He’s been improving every week. He’s legit.”
Palombi wasn’t the only member of the coaching staff that has been impressed with Coleman since his return.
“James is so athletic he can play any position on the field,” defensive coordinator Kendrick Hall said. “A guy with that kind of size shouldn’t be able to move like that.”
With Coleman on the field, responsibilities get a lot lighter for the rest of the defense.
“Having James out here makes my job easier,” middle linebacker Kyle Pugh said. “That’s one side of the field that I don’t have to worry about because I know that he can get his job done.”
Since returning to the team Coleman has been the cornerstone of an athletic defense that has led the Blazing Trojans to the state playoffs for the second consecutive year and has held five opponents to 14 points or fewer along the way.
The season for Coleman and the Blazing Trojans ended with a 48-12 loss to Bolingbrook in the first round of the Class 8A playoffs.
It would be easy for the Blazing Trojans to get caught up in all the hype of the playoffs, and no one would blame them if they did, facing one of the best programs in the state in the first round, but that isn’t the Blazing Trojans style.
Bloom Township’s five losses have come against teams with a combined record of 43-3.
Regardless of what happened Saturday, Coleman has no regrets about his decision to return to the gridiron for his senior season.
“I’m really glad I did it,” Coleman said. “It just wouldn’t have felt right not being out here and not finishing things. We worked hard the last couple years to turn things around and I needed to be out here and be a part of the team.”