CHICAGO HEIGHTS | Tony Palombi tried to put on a cautious face.
After his team's 29-13 loss Friday to Glenbard South, the Bloom Township coach shrugged and said, "There are no guarantees," and, "We don't know how the state is going to go."
He followed it up with, "We've been one point short before."
True enough. There aren't, they don't and the Blazing Trojans have.
But this is not 2007, when Bloom finished the regular season at 5-4, as the Blazing Trojans are now — but with only 35 playoff points in a year the cutoff ended up being 36. This year, Bloom's playoff points — the total of their opponents' wins — will be at least 42 when the brackets are drawn up Saturday afternoon.
A five-win team with 42 playoff points has never failed to qualify for the IHSA playoffs in the eight-class format. The cutoff has crept as high as 40 only once.
Judging by one slip of the tongue when discussing an injury to linebacker Raeson Reese, Palombi knows it.
"He had a foot injury and got stepped on," Palombi said. "He should be fine next week."
Next week, coach?
"I'm proud of my guys no mater what," he said. "They played their hearts out all year. Tonight, that's just a really good team over there."
Indeed, Glenbard South (9-0) capped its first unbeaten regular season in school history by dominating the Blazing Trojans. The Raiders, behind Zach Smith (21 carries, 168 yards) amassed 423 yards in total offense, 239 of those on the ground.
On the plus side, Bloom limited South to nine points under its season average.
"Our defense is our strength," Blazing Trojans running back Justus Brantley said of a unit that came into Friday's action allowing just 13 points per game on the season. "We know our defense is going to hold them, and we all trust each other."
Bloom fell behind quickly under the lights at Bloom Trail, South marching 75 yards in seven plays for a touchdown — on a 12-yard run by Smith — to cap the game's opening possession. The Raiders also scored on their first possession of the second quarter to go up 13-0.
Quarterback Jordan Benavides (11 carries, 95 yards) answered that with a 47-yard scoring scamper, but the Blazing Trojans would get no closer.
It was 23-6 when Bloom's other big highlight occurred. Setting up to attempt a 37-yard field goal, Blazing Trojans holder Tony Wise instead popped up and tossed a 20-yard scoring pass to James Coleman. With Marquis Jones' extra point, Bloom was within 23-13 with 9:31 left in the third.
They were quiet thereafter -- as they will likely be until 8 p.m. Saturday, when the Playoff Pairings Show airs on Comcast SportsNet.