In a meeting of the two top national high school football programs, it was IMG Academy that defeated St. Francis Academy 27-16 on Friday night. A boarding school in Florida came into play trying to get revenge by falling twice straight into a Baltimore power plant and ended up getting some.
After the Panthers quickly pulled ahead on a slick mid-screen from Michael Van Buren to DeJuan WilliamsThe Ascenders scored 20 unanswered points before using a defense full of top-notch recruits to keep the season 8-1 for freshman head coach Billy Miller.
Ohio State Commitment Carnell Tate was the star of the IMG Academy game, catching six passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns. In defense it was Georgia, seven fronts. Gabe Harris who constantly took the pressure off the edge and spearheaded the upsiders, which didn’t give Van Buren much time to work, especially late in the fourth quarter.
Below are some of the findings.
Ohio State Gives Carnell Tate Difference
Tate’s last game in IMG form was arguably his best. Obviously, every time a wide receiver crosses the 100-year mark against a team that is ranked second in the country by MaxPreps, it will be noticeable, but the way Top247 talents have raised the yard has been impressive.
Not only did Tate make assists for 34 and 40 yards, but it was clear from the jump that he would be a prime target for the juniors. Jayden Bradford. After St. Francis took the lead midway through the first quarter, Braford and Tate linked up three times in just six games. This caused the Panthers to scramble to secure the Tate with a Boston College safety obligation. KP Price and others, but the double covering could only make Tate still find ways to make an impact, as in the third quarter when he turned a simple 10-yard stop-route into a game to pieces after he spun from two tackles, broke two more and raced up the field for the first down.
The 247Sports team rates Tate higher than most in the industry, and Friday night served as a fresh reminder of why we love him so much. Tate may not be good at one thing, but he is good at many things. It was also encouraging that the Chicago native thrives in 30-degree weather. This is not a one-time thing in the Big Ten.
Pass Credit for St. Francis Academy
One of the major storylines that appeared in the game was whether or not St. Francis would be able to put some pressure on Bruford. Panthers did.
Ascenders started committing in Miami Francis Mauigoa on a left tackle, Miami commits Antonio Tripp at the left guard, Santana Alo-Pupula downtown, Florida Commits Bookja Harris at right back and Xavier Lozowitzky at right tackle. This unit has had its moments and allowed Jerrick Gibson to break free for a few long runs, but the big boys ahead of the St. Francis deserve some praise.
Linebacker LSU Top247 Dashon Womack pretty much his way on the edge all night. We unofficially knocked him off the sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, a few tackles for a loss, and a half-dozen or so pressure on the quarterback. Making a three-star line of defense USC Sam Green (there was at least one sack) was just as active in the center as Pittsburgh’s three-star defensive line. Isaiah Neal (a total of two bags). Both Wommack and Neil will end their prep careers in early January at the Under Armor All-American Game in Orlando. It wouldn’t be surprising if they solidified their position to move up the rankings given what they taped as seniors.
Ellis Robinson IV looked like CB1
Into the night where Desmond Rix was flagged as two passing interference, it was Ellis Robinson IV who shone on the secondary for IMG. The No. 1 cornerback prospect in the class of 2024 for 247Sports cleared the bill as he made a key pass on third down early in the first half and then knocked Van Buren down several drives later.
Robinson, who played his second season in New York, has spent most of the last 10 months playing second fiddle to Ricks, but he’s a real guy and college reviews are starting to suggest that, as a Power Five contact said late Friday night, that Robinson was the best defenseman they coached last summer, regardless of class.
Besides Robinson, Jr. Jordon Johnson-Rubell is another junior high school protector who deserves recognition for his efforts. He cut Van Buren’s shot into the end zone and ran 98 yards the other way to score. Johnson-Rubell, who calls the Lone Star State home, also made some impressive tackles on the open field. He looks like a man who could play quarterback on Saturdays.
Remember the name Gabe Harris
In late August, there were rumors at IMG that Harris might be the best pass rusher on the list. This took some by surprise as Harris was late and the Ascenders coaching staff spent most of the summer months talking to the other two Top247 wingers: Samuel M’Pemba as well as Jayden Wayne.
Don’t get us wrong, both M’Pemba and Wayne are talented people, but Harris may honestly have the highest ceiling in the group. The Peach State transplant put constant pressure on the edge all night and was the main reason Van Buren couldn’t get back on his feet, eventually becoming the Panthers’ last game mover. Aside from the explosion and ankle flexion, what else stood out about Harris was the way he ran into space on Friday. At one point, he was 25 yards from the field in the catch zone when he put his hip right on the running back and essentially ran a wheel route for them. Kirby Smart is getting better.
Another high-profile IMG staffer who probably isn’t talked about enough nationally is Michigan State’s Top247 linebacker. Jordan Hall. On Friday, he filled in the stats and fired Van Buren with less than a minute left in the game. Hall caught himself looking the other way during the game’s first touchdown, but quickly corrected himself and became convinced that St. Francis was not going to beat them with on-screen play. It should thrive in the Big Ten.
Big night for Vinnie
2025 Top247 wide receiver Winston “Vinnie” Watkins Jr. made headlines before launch when he dropped his verbal commitment to Texas A&M. The move wasn’t all that surprising given how he was touring the country back in June, but still remarkable because Watkins has impressed in a wide variety of settings over the years.
On Friday, the sophomore scored the Risings’ first touchdown of the game when he secured a short pass from Bradford, flipped the field, and caused someone to miss in space before crossing the goal line. Watkins also completed his own pass to Bradford in a stunt play and interrupted a textbook pass in the second half when he was forced to operate at fullback. Not a bad day at the office.
Watkins, who is the cousin of NFL wide receiver and former Clemson star Sammy Watkins, is on the shallower side, but he has a turbo under the hood and proves to be the type of football player who turns up when needed. Ohio State, Miami, Florida, Tennessee, the former Soviet Union, and the Dabo Sweeney Tigers all figure as players in his move forward, although this one is still in its infancy despite an early commitment and withdrawal.
– Former Nebraska Commit Cameron Lenhardt had a hand in the dirt and was used as an internal rusher for IMG. He made a lot of push in the middle. It will be interesting to see where he lands as his best football is likely to come.
– Edris Farouk had one of the biggest hits of the evening and appeared in the box. The junior quarterback is the younger brother of Oklahoma wide receiver Jalil Farouk. which began to appear as a versatile weapon for the Sooners.