Brothers Ty and AJ Pugliano deliver a powerful punch for Black Tornado
One is measured, the other is slightly further from the cuff.
Ty and AJ Pugliano team up together to give the North Medford football team a boost on both sides of the ball.
“There’s no doubting the impact of these two,” says Nathan Chin, head coach of Black Tornado from the Pugliano brothers. “From AJ’s point of view, he puts a ton of energy into everything and is very dynamic. Ty has just that workforce mentality and reliability. Ty is that athlete who you know will do if a game needs to be made. He’s shown that over and over.”
It’s a relationship that goes well between the North Medford football team as well as the siblings who nurture each other in different ways to get the most out of themselves.
Ty is a 5-foot-10, 185-pound back runner and hybrid linebacker/safety who enjoyed his final season with the Black Tornado. He was one of the Southwest Conference’s leading runners a year ago, rushing 202 yards and three points in a 35-14 win over West Salem last week. He now has 58 carries for 295 yards in three games.
“Pure talent aside, Ty keeps our team together and I think everyone on the team knows that,” AJ says. “It’s just a sign for us.”
AJ weighs 6-4 and 220 pounds and is one of the state’s top recruits as a tight end/guard for the Class of 2024. The young player was one of the conference’s leading receivers as a freshman before interrupting his sophomore season with an injury.
This year, AJ has 11 passes for 118 yards and two tank destroyers—both with wins last week—and has continued to develop a resume that includes offers from Oregon, Oregon State, Washington State and Arizona, and conversations with people like Ohio. State, Clemson and a few Big 10 programs.
“AJ is clearly a great newbie,” Ty says, “but he’s the best supporter and teammate and he’s always more concerned about everyone than himself, whether it’s the team, each individual recruiting or how they do it. I feel like he’s humble and doesn’t worry too much about himself or talking about getting hired or anything like that.”
Beyond their physical stature, where two siblings differ most is their confidence in their voices.
17-year-old Ty relies more on leading by example and picking and choosing his moments to give more weight to his words so that his voice is heard.
“I won’t say anything unless it’s positive or I really feel it’s necessary,” Ty says. “But when we needed some energy and vocal leadership, I would definitely say it was him.”
Anyone who has been around the upbeat AJ knows that he is as talkative and friendly as they come and can get as excited as any 16-year-old competitor.
“I like to have fun there; That’s what I’m there for,” AJ says. “I’m there to energize and get some excitement, and (Ty) likes to keep it cool and calm, so we’re like fire and ice. I speak a little loudly and he does the opposite, keeping things quiet, so we complement each other well.”
This innate field complement—knowing exactly where AJ will push a ball carrier so that Ty will make an interception, or how either will attack the defense so the other can help—often translates into off-court compliments. brothers.
They understand better than anyone how hard the others are working and training for their big moments, and there’s always that sibling love when one or the other can achieve something on the field.
“We’re so close and it’s incredible to be on both sides of the ball with him and celebrate with him,” says Ty, who has a 4.0 GPA (4.3 with a weight). “When he scored those goals last week, I was so excited for him. It’s great to have him out there, he’s someone you trust a lot and he’s doing a great job blocking for me.”
Adds her older brother AJ: “He’s the man I can trust the most because I know his habits and I know what he puts into everything and his mentality will never be broken. It just means a lot to be able to fully trust him on the court and know that he can play a game no matter what, or at least give it his all to play. Trusting someone completely works great, especially when a key point, such as my blocking or passing protection, is important for me to get the ball. I know you won’t let me down.”
And off the field?
“Off the court, he’s my best friend,” AJ says. “He has to take me everywhere and he has to deal with me more than anyone else. But when we’re on the field, we complement each other very well. He’s one of the smartest players I know and our dynamic isn’t as much as siblings, but I can say we’re best friends and it’s nice to have that.”
What AJ credits for much of his success on both the local and national circuits is Ty’s football IQ.
AJ said, “I’ve been to football camps all the way up and down the West Coast and all the way to Florida, and the preparation I want before I go to camp is, ‘Hey, what should I do? I need to work on getting ready to hit the road at this camp, ‘Ty Pugliano’s on the field. I want him to protect me and tell me what I can work on with my stalks from a security I ask him to pressure me for being patient with the press.
“Then I go to the camps and say that this guy may be more athletic or more naturally gifted than Ty, but his fundamentals are easier to discern. That’s the thing, Ty’s basics are better than anyone I know, so when I go to these places, Ty tells me the preparation he gave and it turns out that no one else did.”
Both will have a chance to retest their skills on Friday night as Black Tornado (1-2, 1-0 SCFC) host North Salem (3-0 .1-0) in their opening game at home a week later. 1 conflict with West Linn had to move to Eugene.
Friday’s match kicks off at 19:00 at the Spiegelberg Stadium.
“Finally playing at home is a huge relief,” Ty says. “I feel like we found our energy last week and now that we are home, it will be even better. It’s just exciting because we had to postpone it for three weeks, so it’s much better.”
Even better, it certainly won’t be any easier against a North Salem team that advanced to the Class 5A state quarterfinals a year ago and bounced back a few dynamic strengths on its own in quarterback TC Manumaleuna, outstripping Josiah Davis and sprinting. champion DeMari Thompson.
However, aiding North Salem’s first 3-0 start since 2002, Davis injured his ankle and one of the state’s leading attackers may not be available on Friday.
“It was nice to be able to build that trust going into this week,” Chin says, “but we’re playing a team that has that too. They have horses and athletes at some key points, so we should be able to really rock and roll Friday night.”
Ty, in particular, sees the past week as a big springboard for him.
After several weeks of what veteran David Fuiava and junior Terrell Kim described as “hesitant” behind an offensive line led, last week was a different feeling.
“It worked a little bit last year, but I feel like I was very hesitant about the lineup,” Ty says, thanking his linesmen for everything he’s been able to accomplish. “When we put it together last weekend, I decided to take 3 or 4 yards first and foremost, and I think that really helped me cross the line and get through the holes faster. It turned out to be 10, 15, and 20 yards instead of just 3 or 4 from those runs.”
For AJ, last week was the first week he had a chance to truly shine. West Linn naturally bracketed their scope around the star’s tight end, and their Week 2 loss at Bend was thwarted by a second-quarter injury to quarterback Caiden Lacey.
Aside from Lacey’s return last week and feeling AJ’s legs were way too low after she missed out on a hamstring injury this summer, everything is back to where Tornado knew it could be a scrimmage.
“I’m happy to be able to get the ball into the finish area a few times,” AJ says. “My confidence in my return home has definitely increased and I hope we can do even better. West Salem was just the beginning of what we could both do and what we could do as a team.”
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Andy Atkinson/Mail TribuneNorth Medford senior Ty Pugliano, left, and younger brother AJ Pugliano fired Black Tornado on both sides of football.
Andy Atkinson/Mail TribuneNorth Medford’s Ty Pugliano beat the Sherwood defense by one point in the 2021 season.
Andy Atkinson/Mail TribuneNorth Medford’s AJ Pugliano is heading towards the finish zone after making a catch during the 2021 competition.