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Pugh speaks to Hawks before Hayfield-Lee playoff game

In this video, Hayfield seniors Anton McCallum and Rayshawn Rigans talk about the difficulties in playing without Hayfield coach Billy Pugh./Video by B.J. Koubaroulis/The Washington Post

Hayfield football coach Billy Pugh, recovering from a stroke suffered nearly a month ago, made a surprise appearance at the Hawks' playoff game against Lee on Friday night. He spoke to his players from a wheelchair in the locker room before the game.

According to a Hayfield administrator, the players were shocked to see their coach, but very attentive. Pugh spoke to the team about playing the right way, and playing to the whistle.

Pugh, a 49-year-old teacher at Hayfield and the school's football coach since 1998, was transferred a few weeks ago to Inova Mount Vernon Hospital in Alexandria, where he began an intense rehabilitation program in hopes of restoring the motion he lost on the left side of his body during an Oct. 19 stroke he suffered at the school just minutes before football practice.

That rehabilitation process has been difficult, according to Pugh's longtime assistant and the team's interim coach Roy Hill.

Pugh's Hawks averaged nearly six wins per season before neighboring South County opened its doors in 2005 and depleted the school's talent pool. Since then, Hayfield won just four games in four years and went winless in 2006. Pugh's health problems couldn't have been more untimely. Hill told me that he and many friends, family, coaches and players are overly-sympathetic because Pugh is missing the fruits of his labor as Hayfield is having a banner year.

"Some of the kids have visited and seen him," Hill said. "The one's that have seen him it's been hard for them to see him in that state, especially young kids."

Pugh will be at the game with his physical therapist and a nurse by his side.

"I think it was the nurse's idea to give him some extra motivation during his physical therapy sessions," said Hill.

By B.J. Koubaroulis  |  November 20, 2009; 1:56 PM ET
Categories:  AAA Concorde District , AAA Liberty District , AAA National District , AAA Patriot District  
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