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Saint Stephen’s, IMG Academy to make football history Friday

Saint Stephen's and IMG Academy to make football history Friday

Falcons senior Demetrius Davis and IMG White team head coach Ken Stills Sr. discuss the historical significance of the first time IMG will play a football game against a local school.
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Falcons senior Demetrius Davis and IMG White team head coach Ken Stills Sr. discuss the historical significance of the first time IMG will play a football game against a local school.

The relationship between the two schools runs deep. That and the creation of a second IMG Academy varsity team made Friday’s history-making game with Saint Stephen’s possible.

The Falcons are set to become the first program in either Manatee or Sarasota counties to play a football game against IMG.

“It’s definitely fitting,” IMG assistant director of football J.T. Musso said. “The history that we have with those guys, a lot of our kids have gone to school at Saint Stephen’s from the tennis program and everything in the past. So it’s kind of a perfect fit.”

Definitely been the talk of the school.

Saint Stephen’s offensive/defensive lineman Parker Lansberg on the Falcons becoming the first team to play IMG in football from the area

Saint Stephen’s head coach Tod Creneti worked with Musso to schedule the game after the 2016 season ended with the Falcons hoisting the program’s first Sunshine State Athletic Conference championship and the Ascenders devising a second varsity squad to accommodate the increase of players to the program.

“We want to play a really good high school football team,” Creneti said. “We want to be challenged, we want to be ready and so you want to play good people early so are ready down the stretch.”

IMG’s White team, which is comprised of full-time, tuition-paying players looking for the varsity experience to log enough film for college recruiters, had its opener against Brooksville Nature Coast rained out last week.

The same happened to Saint Stephen’s, which didn’t play Windermere Prep following continued lightning and thunderstorms last Friday.

Falcons football file
Demetrius Davis and Saint Stephen’s will make history Friday night by becoming the first Manatee County team to play IMG Academy. Zack Wittman zwittman@bradenton.com

Those cancellations didn’t provide a glimpse into either side, though the Falcons are poised to make another SSAC playoff run with quarterback Fred Billy, running back Chase Brown, wide receiver/defensive back Demetrius Davis and two-way lineman Parker Lansberg among other standouts.

“It’s definitely a challenge,” IMG White quarterback Bryson Lucero said. “We’ve got to match their offense. If they are scoring a lot, we have to score a lot and just help our defense. ... (Our defense) holds them, that means we’ve got to go score.”

IMG’s White team isn’t a total unknown with Lucero, safety P.C. Daniel and running back Juntoku Koda, some of the players that have been involved with IMG’s program in past seasons, and now they get a chance to log playing time.

Falcons football file(3)
Saint Stephen’s Turner Fields at the Moore Athletic Complex will be packed Friday night when the Falcons host IMG White. Zack Wittman zwittman@bradenton.com

“It’s a chance to get on the field,” said IMG White head coach Ken Stills Sr., a former NFL player whose son Kenny plays for the Miami Dolphins. “Bryson would be holding the clipboard with the national team or P.C. would just be there standing there watching. Now these kids get to come down, get a chance to start and get some really good tape and develop as a player, too.”

The historical significance of this week’s game isn’t lost on either side.

“Definitely been the talk of the school,” Lansberg said.

Added Davis: “It’s pretty cool. We’re going to be talked about a lot. ... This is a 1A school playing against a big IMG school. So it feels good to be the first ones to do something.”

IMG’s program blossomed to 106 players, Stills Sr. said, and that created the need for a second varsity team to provide game action for the players who were deep on the depth chart of IMG’s pre-existing team, which currently is under the Blue moniker and plays a national schedule.

Falcons football file(4)
Fred Billy and Saint Stephen’s are looking to defend their Sunshine State Athletic Conference championship. Zack Wittman zwittman@bradenton.com

“(Saint Stephen’s) helped us a lot in trying to set up the game and reach out to other schools and help build that second schedule out for us,” Musso said.

Friday’s game provides an early test for the Falcons as they gain an identity as the defending SSAC champions with a target on their backs.

IMG is in a similar boat – Stills Sr. said the Ascenders will be everyone’s Super Bowl.

And on Friday, two teams featuring two-way players — Stills Sr. said the White team roster is at 48 — will make history.

Week 2 schedule

Friday’s games

Out-of-Door Academy at Fort Myers Gateway Charter, 7 p.m.

Indian Rocks Christian at Cardinal Mooney, 7 p.m.

IMG White at Saint Stephen’s, 7 p.m.

Bayshore at Lakewood Ranch, 7:30 p.m.

Clearwater at Braden River, 7:30 p.m.

St. Petersburg Shorecrest Prep at Bradenton Christian, 7:30 p.m.

Manatee at Palmetto, 7:30 p.m.

Southeast at Sarasota, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday’s game

IMG Blue at Corona Centennial (San Diego), 10:30 p.m.

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