BRADENTON -- The mood in the locker room wasn't jovial. It couldn't be after such a narrow defeat in a preseason game that had national ranking implications.
That national ranking took IMG Academy from No. 2 to No. 22 in USA Today's Super 25 high school football rankings following last week's 19-7 loss against two-time defending Class 5A state champion Plantation American Heritage.
"We were all pretty upset, because we knew had it," said wide receiver Drake Davis, whose game-tying touchdown in the final seconds was negated by a penalty.
But despite that setback, the Ascenders' season isn't a foregone conclusion. Entering 2015, they were tasked with the No. 4-toughest schedule in the country according to CBS MaxPreps.
And on Sunday, the perks of such high recognition comes with a 2 p.m. kickoff against Class 8A heavyweight Miramar on ESPNU.
The nationally televised aspect brings an additional spotlight.
"Whether it's in the backyard playing catch or at The Opening or on ESPN, I don't really pay attention to that," IMG quarterback Shea Patterson said. "Once I step on the football field, I'm in total focus."
Patterson, the consensus top-rated signal-caller in the country, transferred to IMG from Calvary Baptist in Shreveport, La., for his senior season. While focus remains on the field during a televised game, it does give Patterson and Co. the chance to shine while family members and friends are watching.
"A lot of family members will be watching and all your friends, so you want to ball out for them," Patterson said.
Davis said they're approaching things like it's a normal game that isn't on TV.
"We just studied our film and know what we're going against," Davis said. "We just try to go harder than them, so that's basically what we have to do."
The Ascenders' bid for a national title may have ended with last week's defeat, despite its status as a preseason game. With two bye weeks, though, IMG's Kickoff Classic counted toward national rankings. And the Ascenders can't compete in the postseason as a Florida High School Athletic Association independent.
So getting down to the wire against American Heritage, the Ascenders strapped in for an 86-yard drive in the final 60 seconds. The holding penalty that negated Davis' game-tying catch was a crushing blow.
"It just takes the life out of you really," Patterson said. "... We're definitely coming in with a chip on our shoulder. Obviously, coming off a heartbreaking loss like that. I think we're going to come out with a lot more drive and a lot more ambition than we did against American Heritage."
Against Miramar this week, head coach Kevin Wright said all three starters that were missing: defensive end Shavar Manuel (20 college offers), defensive back Saivion Smith (LSU commit) and wide receiver Emmanuel Greene (17 college offers) are expected to play Sunday.
If those players return to the field Sunday, then IMG Academy will add more depth to a talented roster that features 11 Division-I committed players and a slew of others with several D-I offers.
And getting a top-tier 8A program on national TV only means the Ascenders get another crack at showing why they were rated so highly in the preseason.
"With the national schedule, we have an opportunity every week, a tremendous opportunity every week, to prove ourselves," Wright said.
Miramar (0-0) at IMG Academy (0-0)
When: 2 p.m.
On the air: ESPNU
The scoop: Last season brought continued success for Miramar as the program qualified for the Class 8A playoffs again. ... The Patriots, though, never played in them after a scandal was unearthed alleging improper benefits for players. ... Still, Miramar is back as a team to potentially watch this fall in 8A -- the same classification Manatee plays in -- with several Division-I recruits. ... Offensive lineman Obinna Nwankwo (6-foot-3, 250 pounds) and defensive back Korel Smith are committed with Tulane and Florida Atlantic, respectively. ... While Miramar pasted Hialeah American 34-6 in last week's Kickoff Classic, IMG was handed a crushing, 19-7, defeat by Plantation American Heritage that all but ended the Ascenders' national title chances. ... Ascenders QB Shea Patterson (Ole Miss commit) was flushed from the pocket a bunch, and needs his O-Line to provide better protection for the offense to click the entire game. ... WR Emmanuel Greene, DL Shavar Manuel and DB Saivion Smith didn't play last week, but head coach Kevin Wright said they're expected back. ... That should catapult IMG past the Patriots.
Prediction: IMG 28, Miramar 21
-- Jason Dill, sports reporter