IMG Academy and Venice High signed a contract to play each other in football later this year. While reports of the game began late last week, the contract was not signed until Wednesday. Details of the contract were not made public, though this season’s game is set for October at Powell-Davis Stadium in Venice.
It’s the first time IMG is going to play a team from the tri-county area of Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte counties.
When the Ascenders started their football program under then head coach and director Chris Weinke, area coaches banded together in voicing their concern over the private sports academy role within high school football.
That’s changed now with Venice High head coach John Peacock telling the Venice Gondolier that to compete for a state championship in Class 7A against programs like Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, which knocked off the Indians and Braden River the last two playoffs in the state semifinals, the Indians need to learn how to compete at that level.
Peacock even said he “might have to hire a magician,” following Venice’s elimination, 46-8, at the hands of Aquinas, which rolled to another 7A state championship in 2016.
So that’s where IMG Academy, which finished last season ranked near the top of the national rankings and sent 20 players to Division I programs as early graduates, comes into the picture.
“We’re going to have to beat a team that’s not playing by the same rules and basically gets to pick its roster,” Peacock told the Gondolier. “IMG doesn’t have any bones about it. They’re very open about how they do things and they play a national schedule — which in my opinion St. Thomas Aquinas should do, too, but that’s not the case.”
The Ascenders are an independent program in the Florida High School Athletic Association and cannot compete for a state championship.
The 2017 game is scheduled for Week 7, which comes directly after a key district matchup with Braden River.
Attempts to speak with IMG Academy about the schedule were not returned immediately, other than confirming the contract was signed.