Revenge wasn’t a motivating factor for the IMG Academy football team.
That whole staying in contention for a mythical high school national championship should be enough motivation for the Ascenders. Ranked second in the latest USA Today Super 25 national poll, IMG avenged the program’s last loss and extended their current winning streak to 22 with a 35-14 victory over visiting St. John’s College High School from Washington, D.C. in the Armour Bowl.
“Nah, that was 2014,” said Ascenders second-year head coach Kevin Wright when asked if his squad was motivated by a 35-2 loss to St. John’s a little more than two years ago. “They don’t remember 2014. I think the fact that we never had ‘The Shield’ (the trophy given to the winning team in the IMG-St. John’s series). We have just heard the story of ‘The Shield’ and we’ve seen the pictures of it in (St. John’s) weight room. Now, we can get keep it in ours for 365 days.”
Playing its first home game following a three-week whirlwind that featured games in Georgia, California and Louisiana, IMG scored two touchdowns within the game’s first six minutes and 24 seconds as quarterback Kellen Mond scored on a 49-yard run and threw a 65-yard touchdown strike to Brian Hightower. Hightower’s touchdown reception came on the first play following a fumble recovery by IMG defensive back Mike Jones.
“I think (the fumble recovery) flipped the momentum and really got us going,” said Wright.
St. John’s College, the No. 18 team in the most recent USA Today Super 25 poll which fell to 2-1 on Saturday, looked like it was headed for another red-zone disaster late in the first quarter following an illegal procedure call and a 12-yard loss on a sack after reaching the Ascenders’ 10. However, a fourth-and-26 from the 27 turned into a touchdown as Kwincy Hall caught a Kasim Hall pass after it bounced off the hands of an IMG defender.
Following a scoreless second quarter, IMG created some distance less than three minutes into the third quarter as Tre McKitty capped a five-play, 51-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Mond. The lead would remain 14 until the Cadets got a touchdown on a 4-yard run by Hill with 3:38 left in the period.
However, back-to-back completions from Mond covering 60 yards, including a 32-yard touchdown pass to Brock Annestad, made it 28-14 just 46 seconds later. Mond finished the game with 191 yards on 9-of-13 passing and 81 yards on 12 carries, while running back Asa Martin had 80 yards on eight carries and 63 yards on three receptions.
“We were physical and we executed for four quarters,” said Mond. “We knew St. John’s was going to be there pretty much the whole game, but we just kept fighting for four quarters. We knew that they shut down at some point.”
IMG closed out the scoring on McKitty's second touchdown reception — a 9-yarder from backup quarterback Zack Annexstad early in the fourth quarter.
IMG will return to action on Friday night at 7 p.m. against Boyd Anderson of Lauderdale Lakes at IMG Academy Field.
Who: Boyd Anderson at IMG Academy
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: IMG Academy Field, Bradenton
Cardinal Mooney at Englewood Lemon Bay, 7 p.m.
Palmetto at Bayshore, 7:30 p.m.
Braden River at Leesburg, 7:30 p.m.
Lakewood Ranch at Land O’Lakes Sunlake, 7:30 p.m.
Deltona Trinity Christian Academy at Bradenton Christian, 7:30 p.m.