CHICAGO HEIGHTS | Every team needs that guy who does all the little things to make a program successful. They call him a glue guy.
He’s the one that may not have the physical tools but has the right attitude. He leads the cheers on the sideline and pats players on the back after a bad play. He’s the one who makes sure the team sticks together when things go south.
For Bloom Township that guy is Kyle Pugh and he isn’t just the good attitude scout team player, he’s the starting middle linebacker and leader of a defense that allows only 14 points a game for the season.
“Kyle is the kind of kid you have to have on a team,” Blazing Trojans coach Tony Palombi said. “He’s smart and a natural leader when push comes to shove. He’s a role model for the rest of our team.”
For Pugh it’s not just about setting an example on the field and making plays for his team. He wants to set an example for all the Bloom Township players who follow him.
“I feel like we’ve really accomplished something the past two years,” Pugh said. “Bloom has always had the talent but now the guys have bought into what the coaches are teaching and it’s taken us to the playoffs in both seasons. I think we are really setting an example for the guys on the lower levels.”
His team will need to follow that example as they prepare to take on Class 8A Associated Press second-ranked Bolingbrook in the opening round of the playoffs on Saturday.
Not many people will give the 16th-seeded Blazing Trojans much of a chance against the top-seeded Raiders, but Pugh doesn’t seem to mind.
“The guys need to realize that they are human, they bleed just like us,” Pugh said. “We have to have that attitude if we want to have a chance to win.”
“We have to have a strong defensive game and keep it close, every team makes a few mistakes in a game and we need to be there to take advantage when it happens.”
For Pugh the journey back to the playoffs didn’t start in August it started in December in a weight room in Chicago Heights.
“We weren’t happy about the way things ended last year so for us the season never really stopped,” Pugh said. “We took a couple weeks off and then we were back in the weight room, all the guys had a burning desire to get back to the playoffs this year.”
It’s that level of commitment by Pugh and his teammates that have made a return trip to the playoffs possible. The entire program made the commitment in the off-season to get themselves ready for this year.
“We planned to start off season conditioning in January,” Palombi said. "We wanted to give them a few weeks to heal and get their school work in order but the kids were chomping at the bit. The kids organized things those first few weeks until the official program got started.”
This weekend the whole state will be on upset alert watching to see if any of the top seeds will stumble and Pugh and the Blazing Trojans are hoping that all that time in the weight room will help them be the ones to make it happen.
“Bloom has always had an underdog approach,” Pugh said. “We love the opportunity to play spoiler and everyone writing us off just motivates us more the coaches have been saying all year not to listen to what anyone else says and that we can beat anyone.”
Saturday will be their chance to prove it.