But the Ascenders needed to hang on as the Hawks used two second-half scores, one on defense and the other on special teams, to cut into a 17-0 lead and make it interesting halfway through the fourth quarter. IMG's defense held on a fourth down with just over four minutes to play to allow the offense to run out the clock.
These national powers met in 2019, a 31-25 IMG victory that featured a star-studded cadre of players that included Marvin Harrison Jr., Eli Ricks, Kaytron Allen, Kyle McCord, J.C. Latham, Tyler Booker and Jeremiah Trotter Jr.
Saturday's game, televised on ESPN2, saw the Ascenders' defense set the tone early while the Jayden Bradford
-led offense methodically chipped away at a stout St. Joe's defense.
IMG's defense had three first-half takeaways with an Ellis Robinson IV
interception, a T.J. Lindsey
fumble recovery and a late pick by Amari Jones
. Robinson had six first-half tackles in addition to the takeaway.
Meanwhile, the Ascenders' offense got rolling following the fumble as Bradford kept the ball on a zone-read and raced 51 yards untouched for IMG's first score midway through the second quarter. Head coach Billy Miller's squad added a 29-yard field goal for a 10-0 halftime lead.
IMG's first possession of the second half ended in points as Bradford hooked up with Donovan Olugbode
on a 45-yard catch and run score for a 17-0 lead.
The St. Joseph's Prep offense continued to sputter in the second half but the defense picked up the slack. Two takeaway touchdowns pulled the Hawks within three points.
scooped a blocked IMG punt and raced 32 yards for a score at the end of the third period to make it 17-7.
On the ensuing IMG possession, Anthony Sacca
picked up an Alex Haskell
strip sack and trotted five yards into the end zone to pull within 17-14 with 10:39 left in the game.
Army commit Nick McGlynn
stopped IMG on a fourth down, giving the Hawks' offense one more chance before the IMG defense stiffened on fourth down.
The Ascenders (2-0) opened the season with a 35-10 win over then-No. 19 Lipscomb Academy (Nashville, Tenn.). Next up for IMG Academy is Thompson (Alabaster, Ala.).
St. Joseph's Prep (0-1) hosts St. Peter's Prep (Jersey City, N.J.) on Saturday.