IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) went wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team in high school football last season, going 8-0 against a daunting schedule. The Ascenders appear to be heading into the 2021 campaign with the same mindset as they will meet defending Florida Class 5A state champion American Heritage (Plantation) in a preseason game Aug. 20. The news was first reported by The Crib South Florida via Twitter.
The kickoff classic game is essentially a preseason exhibition and will not count toward either team’s official record. But with over 40 players expected to take the field with FBS offers, it’s should be one of the more exciting early-season matchups on the schedule nationally.
Earlier this month, both schools made history during the NFL Draft. IMG Academy broke the record with seven players selected while American Heritage had the second most ever taken with six selections.
Head coach Patrick Surtain led American Heritage to an 11-2 record in 2020, winning its third state championship since he took over as head coach in 2016. The Patriots finished last season ranked No. 21 in the MaxPreps Top 25 with notable wins over Cardinal Gibbons (Fort Lauderdale), Chaminade-Madonna (Hollywood), Jesuit (Tampa), Northwestern (Miami) and Venice.
Expect both schools to be ranked in the top 10 in the preseason MaxPreps Top 25 when it is released June 23.
IMG Academy’s roster is expected to feature 10 players ranked in the top 200 overall in the 247Sports composite rankings for the Class of 2022 led by five-star athlete Keon Sabb, five-star safety Kamari Wilson, four-star offensive tackle Tyler Booker and recent Florida State commit A.J. Duffy at quarterback.
The Ascenders have eight players rated in the top 135 overall for the Class of 2023 led by five-star offensive tackle Francis Mauigoa, five-star athlete Samuel M’Pemba, five-star outside linebacker Malik Bryant and four-star wide receiver Carnell Tate.
American Heritage has five players rated as a three-star recruits or higher in 247Sports composite rankings for the Class of 2022 led by four-star defensive end Marvin Jones Jr., four-star cornerback Earl Little Jr. and four-star cornerback Jacolby Spells.
Five-star wide receiver Brandon Inniss, four-star wide receiver Santana Fleming and four-star running back Mark Fletcher are all ranked in the top 135 overall for the Class of 2023.
IMG Academy has not released its full schedule but some notable games that have already been reported include matchups against La Salle (Cincinnati) on Sept. 3, Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) on Oct. 8, and St. Frances Academy (Baltimore) on Nov. 19.
American Heritage has notable games scheduled against Brookwood (Snellville, Ga.) on Aug. 28 and Edna Karr (New Orleans) on Sept. 17. The latter is Surtain’s alma mater and he led the program to its first state title as a senior in 1993.