MANATEE -- With questions swirling around how IMG Academy's secondary would fare entering Saturday's televised Kickoff Classic against visiting Tallahassee Godby, the Ascenders' defensive backs more than made a statement.
With the help of steady pressure all game, IMG's secondary tallied three interceptions en route to an efficient offensive display to beat the Cougars 32-13 at IMG Academy Stadium.
"It's our front seven putting some pressure on them
(and) forcing them to throw some balls and then our secondary, at opportune times, making some plays," IMG Academy head coach Chris Weinke said. "I think anytime you see your guys on the back end making interceptions, obviously that changes possession for us."
Saivion Smith, a junior who transferred in from St. Petersburg Lakewood, highlighted the string of picks when he rumbled 86 yards to paydirt with 5 minutes, 29 seconds remaining in the game to cap the scoring.
Smith's late interception would have counted for his second of the contest, but an earlier one was negated by penalty.
"We just saw the dude break on the comeback, and I just broke on it and took it to the house," Smith said.
Also recording interceptions were safety Brody Crossin, a senior from Valparaiso, Ind., and safety Reed Miller, a senior from Hollidaysburg, Pa.
And aiding their ballhawking was the pressure caused from the vaunted Ascenders defensive line.
Defensive end Scott Patchan, who is committed to the University of Miami, was credited with a team-high nine tackles (two for loss) and a pass breakup.
"It's really a bend-but-don't-break type of defense," Weinke said.
Meanwhile, the offense clicked with Florida State University-bound quarterback Deondre Francois completing 14 of 18 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown against zero interceptions.
His production was supplemented by the work junior running back Tony Jones mustered. The former St. Petersburg Catholic star ran roughshod over the Cougars to the tune of 116 rushing yards on eight attempts and two touchdowns.
"I would have never done all that carry without my big O-line in front of me," Jones said. "I have to give them the thanks, and the coach kept telling me to read the blocks longer. So I just trusted him and I did it."
However, it wasn't all smooth sailing for the Ascenders, who missed two extra points and a two-point conversion attempt after their first three scores.
Weinke said his team has two quality kickers and they'll clean up that department for next week's regular season opener against Washington D.C.'s St. Johns College High School.
For Godby, senior linebacker Albert Cannon was credited with 13 tackles, including a sack to pace the defense.
The Cougars' offense was stymied into two field goals, before scratching out a touchdown with 32 seconds remaining in the game.