IMG Academy (9-0), which appears unlikely to participate in a postseason contest of any kind, enhanced a resume that includes victories over No. 9 St. Joseph's Prep (Philadelphia), Ben Davis
(Indianapolis), Glenville (Cleveland) and Lipscomb Academy (Nashville,
If Friday night was the end of the line for the 2023 Ascenders, they will finish unbeaten for the first time since 2020 when they were crowned MaxPreps National Champions.
The victory also gave IMG Academy a 3-2 edge head-to-head against St. Frances Academy. The series between the two independent powerhouses has developed into a very relevant rivalry when it comes to the national rankings.
IMG Academy got on the board twice late in the second quarter. After a 25-yard field goal the Ascenders finally found the end zone on a three-yard pass from Jayden Bradford
to Jerrick Gibson
with less than a minute to go, giving them a 10-0 lead headed into the intermission.
With just under four minutes left to go in the third quarter, a blocked punt deep in IMG territory helped give St. Frances Academy life. The Panthers punched it into the end zone three plays later from two yards out on a quarterback sneak by Michael Van Buren
to make it a 10-7 game.
Following a couple of missed field goal attempts by St. Frances Academy and a procession of yellow laundry on the field, Anthony Rogers
scored on a nine-yard run to put IMG Academy ahead 17-7.
St. Frances didn't throw in the towel, however. Van Buren drove the Panthers down the field quickly before finding James Branch
for a 12-yard touchdown with 2:26 remaining.
Top junior wide receiver prospect Donovan Olugbode
recovered the onside kick for IMG Academy but the Ascenders couldn't salt the clock and turned it over on downs with 48 seconds left near midfield.
With the outcome in serious doubt for IMG, St. Frances Academy provided a gift by snapping the ball over Van Buren's head and setting off a wild race between the quarterback and Oklahoma-bound defensive lineman David Stone
. The future Sooner won out, catching the ball as it bounced off the turf and finally putting things away.
The loss ends a disappointing season for St. Frances Academy, which began the season ranked No. 6 nationally but lost its first four games. The Panthers bounced back by winning five of their last six but Friday's setback brings things to a close on sour note.