Of all the highly-touted football players on the field in Saturday's 41-14 victory for top-ranked IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)
, the best may end up being a freshman. The Ascenders' 5-foot-10, 196-pound running back Stacy Gage
, a ninth-grader tabbed as the "LeBron James of youth football" growing up in South Florida, scored two second-half touchdowns on two carries in the victory over Duncanville (Texas).
That's a pretty big stage — the game featured 49 players
with at least one FBS scholarship offer — to score your first two touchdowns for the No. 1 team's "national" squad. Gage found the end zone on runs of 3 and 1 yards, the second with less than a minute to play, in a game played at Globe Life Park in Arlington — the former home of the Texas Rangers — against the then-national No. 6 team.
Gage had already made quite an impression for the program's "varsity" team, the second-tier of three squads. He rushed for a program-record 298 yards and five touchdowns in a recent game. In four games with the varsity team, Gage had a team-high 588 yards rushing on 63 carries and 10 TDs.Last season
, as an eighth-grader, he rushed for 1,005 yards (11.0 yards per carry) and 11 touchdowns in seven games for the 8-man high school varsity team at Bell Creek Academy (Riverview). Eighth-graders are allowed to play varsity football in Florida.
ranked Gage the No. 1 player (14-and-under) in South Florida based on his play for the Riverview Raiders' youth squad.
"Stacy Gage is the LeBron James of youth football," the website wrote. "He can do anything on the football field, from putting his hand in the dirt as an edge rusher, to playing OLB in the box, to running the football, to lining up at wide receiver.
"As a running back he has a rare blend of speed and power. Immense power in legs and shows balance through contact. Shreds arm tackles and has speed to house it. Very hard to tackle on an angle. Professional, decisive runner."
Big claims for a kid with three-plus seasons remaining in high school. Though his highlights, shown above, certainly back up his running skills. So does a recruiting offer from the University of Wisconsin.