BRADENTON — When the clock read all zeroes in the fourth quarter, it was pandemonium on the IMG Academy sideline.
Shea Patterson’s final scramble — a Johnny Manziel-esque weave up into traffic and back out to safety — let him connect with Drake Davis in the front right corner of the end zone where Ascenders players sprinted to meet their new wide receiver who they thought had just scored a game-winning touchdown against American Heritage Plantation.
Back at the 25-yard line, someone finally noticed, there was a flag. Offensive holding was the call and the ball went back 10 yards. So now Patterson needed one more scramble and this desperation heave didn’t go far enough as he fell to the IMG Academy Stadium grass and Nick Eubanks plucked it out of the air for a game-sealing pick six.
Now the clock really read all zeroes, and IMG lost its Kickoff Classic 19-7 shortly after midnight Sunday. The game was delayed about 90 minutes because of Saturday night’s thunderstorms.“Odd deal,” head coach Kevin Wright said. “That happens sometimes. Life goes on.”
This was Patterson’s debut for the Ascenders after transferring from Calvary Baptist in Louisiana and he came a whistle away from almost singlehandedly leading IMG to a win against a two-time defending state champion.
The quarterback, considered the best in the country by 247sports’ composite rankings, was shaky in the first half, completing 10 of his 15 passes but only compiling 59 yards. He made plays with his legs — whether it was escaping rushers or darting for short pickups — and in the third quarter he used his feet to finally get the Ascenders on the board.
IMG began its first drive of the second half from its own 20-yard line, and after a hold on the first play it became the 10. He connected with tight end Isaac Nauta on the second play to get the Ascenders some breathing room and started handing the ball to running backs Tony Jones Jr. and Jordan Anthony. Those two picked up 50 of the next 61 yards to put IMG on American Heritage’s 5. Patterson faked a handoff to Jones on the right and took a bootleg left into the end zone to tie the game at 7-7.
“He has the ability to extend plays,” Wright said. “He did that several times tonight, and that’s what you get with Shea.”
Patterson finished with 218 yards on 18-of-33 passing. His legs became important because the Patriots’ overwhelming pass rush against the Ascenders’ inexperienced offensive line.
The star of that defensive front is Brian Burns, a four-star end with interest from all the traditional Southeastern powers. His grandfather died earlier this week and Heritage didn’t know whether Burns would make the trip to Bradenton until Friday.
He had Patterson on the run during nearly every play and cornerbacks Patrick Surtain Jr. and Will Allen — the sons of the former NFL corners with the same names — kept the Ascenders’ wideouts from running free.
The game was a true defensive struggle for most of the 48 minutes — Eubanks caught a touchdown on American Heritage’s first drive, and the Patriots didn’t score again until the fourth quarter — and Burns knew it. The win was sealed with a last-minute stop, and Heritage earned bragging rights in one of Florida’s highest-profile games this year.
“As he came into the locker room the excitement was there,” head coach Mike Rumph said. “I think he played a good game, but I think his energy and how he spoke to the team at halftime is what made the team uplifted.”
American Heritage Plantation 19, IMG 7A.H. Plantation 7 0 0 12—19IMG 0 0 7 0 — 7ScoringFirst quarterAHS—Nick Eubanks 5 pass from Jason Brown (Oren Millstein kick) (6:52)Third quarterIMG – Shea Patterson 5 run (Ricky Aguayo kick) (6:17)Fourth quarterAHS – Brandon Johnson 44 catch from Jason Brown (XP blocked) (10:48)AHS – Eubanks 90 interception (0:00)