Bloom’s Kyle Pugh, Alexander ‘Thunder Plum’ Clark plug up Kankakee

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From the secondary, Bloom linebacker Kyle Pugh watched time and again as visiting Kankakee set up in shotgun formation Saturday.

With the Blazing Trojans in a sticky situation, clinging to a one-point lead but having the Kays backed up against their own goal line, quarterback Malcolm White went under center once more.

Having already wreaked havoc defensively, Pugh’s eyes lit up.

He lunged and fell on a botched snap to give the Blazing Trojans excellent field position.

“They’re in shotgun all day and then under center so I knew the play was something inside,” Pugh said. “We all came hard and plugged the middle up, and I came up with the ball.”

Pugh’s defensive gem turned things around immediately. Two plays later, Bloom quarterback Jordan Benavides lunged into the end zone for a 1-yard keeper to extend the lead even further on the way to a 33-24 Southland win over Kankakee in Chicago Heights.

Benavides finished with 27 carries for 146 yards and two scores (1, 50 yards) while also going 6-for-12 passing for 102 yards and a score. Out of the backfield, halfback Emmanual Williams rushed 11 times for 92 yards and two rushing touchdowns for the Blazing Trojans (4-1, 1-0).

“We’re always trying to move the ball efficiently,” Williams said. “We’ll get back to practice and look at film because we did have some missed handoffs. We’ve just got to get better as a team.”

Following the Benavides and Pugh big plays earlier in the quarter, Williams had another answer when the Kays responded with a big score of their own: a Joseph Jordan 24-yard touchdown reception he tipped to himself.

Williams plowed through the line untouched for the Blazing Trojans, scoring on a 60-yard scamper to put Bloom up 26-18 with eight-plus minutes to go in the third.

“We call [lineman] Alexander Clark ‘Thunder Plum’ and I ran right up his back,” Williams said. “It was a beautiful block, and I was free as day.”

Defensively, Bloom allowed 332 passing yards and three touchdowns but shut down Kankakee on the ground to the tune of negative-26 yards on 29 carries.

“The offense had a little trouble moving the ball so defensively we had to stay strong,” Pugh said. “Bend but don’t break, and Kankakee has some good athletes over there. We’re just trying to maintain and stay in the game.”

Kankakee (2-3, 0-2) was led by White (15-for-29, 332 yards, 3 TD, interception) with Martavious Laster (six catches, 143 receiving yards) pulling in two touchdowns.

Bloom can now look ahead to next Saturday’s matchup with Crete-Monee.

“It definitely gives us confidence going into the rest of conference,” Pugh said. “We set the tone a little bit.”

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