MONFORT HEIGHTS -A week after blowing out a made-up team in a made-for-TV game, IMG Academy's national team tangled with La Salle's legit Lancers of the Greater Catholic League-South.
Once the Lancers' smoke effects faded from their entrance, it was pure smoke from IMG as the Ascenders scored at will in the first half. The second-half featured a merciful running clock as IMG won handily 58-7.
Normally, a coach is chatty after a 51-point victory. When IMG's Pepper Johnson was asked to talk about the game, his response was curt and quick.
"Oh no," he said.
This was after his team outgained La Salle 475-54. Kaytron Allen led all rushers with 194 yards and four touchdowns, with Stacy Gage adding 65 and a score and Roderick Gainey gaining 48 with a touchdown. Quarterback A.J. Duffy was 10-for-14 for 122 yards and two touchdowns to Carnell Tate and Samuel M'Pemba.
Despite the lopsided score, La Salle coach Pat McLaughlin was happy to escape without major injuries.
"I'm more proud of this team than I've ever been," McLaughlin said. "There wasn't a player that quit tonight. Obviously, that's a really great team. Will find a way to bounce back after this and will get better from it."
McLaughlin wondered if even a Cincinnati all-star team would keep it close against IMG's athletes. With the difficulty the GCL-South has in scheduling non-conference games, every now and then a game like this occurs.
"They're getting the best players in the country," McLaughlin said. "It got ugly a little bit. Our kids can say they played against IMG. I don't know if they're one or two or five in the country; we did it. It's a completely different level of football. They're not even in the Florida High School football association. I think we're still 2-0 after tonight and we'll go down to Louisville next week ready to go."
La Salle's Mason Mattingly was limited to 6-of-7 passing for 19 yards and the lone Lancer touchdown to Dylan Eddings. Indiana-bound Gi'Bran Payne was held to 18 yards rushing.
"They're the No. 1 team in the country," Payne said. "We weren't coming in expecting anything. We played hard. My main goal was to not get shut out and leave healthy. They'd beat most college teams so we're cool with it."
Within the opening three minutes, La Salle had gone three and out, followed by four plays and a touchdown for IMG. Penn State commit Allen had 58 yards on the opening series including his 1-yard plunge. A minute and a half later Allen was again in the end zone via a 23-yard scamper. Before the end of the quarter, Allen had the hat trick walking in from a yard.
Four-star sophomore Gage spun in from 17 for the second quarter's first score. With offers from Ohio State, Michigan, Texas, Louisville and USF, he's the backup.
With 6:03 left in the half, La Salle scored the first points of 2021 against IMG when Mattingly hit Eddings from the 5-yard line. Jayden Fielding's 35-yard field goal for IMG made it 37-7 at band time.
With a running clock in effect, Allen's fourth touchdown from 30 yards put him near 200 on the night. To end the fast frame Duffy passed to Samuel M'Pemba to end the third at 51-7. Gainey's trot in the fourth quarter gave IMG 58 points for a second straight week.
IMG's Ascenders coached by former New York Giant Johnson are an embarrassment of riches with a roster full of Division I recruits. While La Salle has senior running back Payne committed to Indiana, IMG is a who's who of Power Five specimens.
Quarterback Duffy is committed to Florida State, running back Allen to Penn State, safety Trevon Howard to Northwestern, receiver Shawn Miller to Illinois, defensive back Ade Willie to Michigan State, defensive end Jihaad Campbell, defensive back Daylen Everette and safety Keon Sabb are committed to Clemson. Tackle Tyler Booker is heading to Alabama, defensive tackle Nick James is deciding between Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Ohio State and safety Kamari Wilson is picking between Alabama, Florida, LSU, Miami (FL) and South Carolina. In addition, uncommitted receiver Tate and sophomore Gage are four-stars, while sophomore Desmond Ricks is ranked No. 2 nationally.
IMG sits on 600 acres in Bradenton, Florida, and tuition is $84,400 yearly for those on campus, $67,400 for day students playing football. They claim not to offer scholarships, but limited financial aid. IMG stands for International Management Group and the company is owned by Endeavor, which used to be the William Morris Agency in Beverly Hills. They also operate Learfield IMG College, which represents more than 200 NCAA athletic properties including the University of Cincinnati and Xavier.
Seven former IMG players went in the NFL Draft this spring, including Kellen Mond of Texas A&M. The school has NBA alumni and plenty in tennis because it started as the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy that trained the likes of Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and Venus and Serena Williams.
Next up IMG will be back in Florida against Miami Northwestern, while they still have road trips to Massachusetts, Illinois and Alabama. La Salle will continue their 2021 gauntlet at Louisville Trinity, one of three state champions they have on the menu in addition to the celebrity Ascenders of IMG.
Would McLaughlin schedule IMG again?
"No," he answered before the sentence was finished.
IMG 21 16 14 7 58
La Salle 0 7 0 0 7
IMG - Allen 1-yard run (Fielding kick)
IMG - Allen 23-yard run (Fielding kick)
IMG - Allen 1-yard run (Fielding kick)
IMG - Gage 17-yard run (Fielding kick)
LS - Mattingly 5-yard pass to Eddings (Luensman kick)
IMG - Duffy 17-yard pass to Tate (extra point missed)
IMG - Fielding 35-yard FG
IMG - Allen 30-yard run (Fielding kick)
IMG - Duffy 7-yard pass to M'Pemba (Fielding kick)