Football: Bloom hoping to qualify for playoffs a second straight season
By Pat Disabato firstname.lastname@example.org July 30, 2013 6:30PM
Bloom quarterback Kendall McGinnis | File photo
Updated: September 1, 2013 6:24AM
There’s a renewed excitement surrounding the Bloom football program, one not witnessed in 25 years.
Case in point: The nearly 60 varsity players and 30 sophomores who showed up for summer workouts. Those are big numbers for Bloom.
That’s what a winning season can do for a program that had been a spectator to the postseason party for more than two decades.
The Blazing Trojans qualified for the playoffs in 2012 for the first time in 22 long years.
All of a sudden, it’s cool to play football at Bloom.
“Our success last year played a big part in the amount of interest we had this summer,” Bloom coach Tony Palombi said. “The kids realized that hard work pays off. The group from last year worked extremely hard and qualified for the playoffs. The kids realize what they need to do to continue the playoff streak.”
Bloom returns just eight starters — five on offense — from last year’s 6-4 squad.
The good news is that senior quarterback Kendall McGinnis and senior running back Justus Brantley are two of the five back in the mix on offense.
In 2012, McGinnis passed for 711 yards and four touchdowns and tacked on another 469 yards on the ground along with six scores. Brantley rushed for more than 1,000 yards and reached the end zone 12 times.
“Kendall looks good and healthy,” Palombi said. “So does Justus. We’re optimistic.”
Opponents focusing on stopping McGinnis and Brantley might pay a severe price. The Blazing Trojans have a pair of speedy slotbacks in Zerrel Jackson and Jordan Benavides and a dangerous receiver in Jonah Wiley.
“We have some kids who can make plays,” Palombi said. “They know what it takes, having played last year.”
For the Blazing Trojans offense to take full advantage of its multiple weapons, an inexperienced offensive line must develop quickly.
Based on strength alone, Palombi is confident the O-line will be productive.
“The guys we have coming in were not starters last year, but they’re very strong,” Palombi said. “They’re benching 300 pounds on average. They have to keep working to get better.”
The leader of the pack, according to Palombi, has been junior Eric Bucio, a center.
“Eric’s intelligent, strong and has become a leader,” Palombi said.
Bloom returns just three starters, all linebackers, on defense: junior Kyle Pugh and seniors Lawrence Evans and Dominique Taylor.
Jackson will log double duty and see time at defensive back.
A player to keep an eye on is cornerback Cedric Johnson.
“We have some holes to fill on defense,” Palombi said. “We have good competition for spots. We’ll see how it plays out.”
What should provide hope for another playoff season is the senior class has produced a winning record for three straight seasons. The seniors are extremely motivated to complete their high school careers on a successful note.
There’s no doubt, though, that some juniors are going to need to make their marks if Bloom is to qualify for the postseason a second straight year.
“Our lines are going to be young and inexperienced,” Palombi said. “But our overall team strength and speed has never been better. After last year’s success, the players are really excited to start this season. They have been working hard. There’s a lot of excitement, that’s for sure.”