IMG vs. Cocoa is Sunshine State’s biggest showdown
No. 12 Cocoa (Fla.) has a big test this week when it travels across the state to play No. 17 IMG Academy (Bradenton) on Friday. Both teams are 2-0 and coming off impressive wins against out-of-state teams, though IMG’s 47-29 victory at DeSoto (Texas) was arguably more impressive, because the Ascenders were on the road and because of DeSoto’s reputation. Cocoa played at home in its 35-0 defeat of Western Branch (Chesapeake, Va.).
IMG, which has more elite recruits than any high school team in the country, has looked more impressive each week as its starts figure out how to play together as a unit. QB Shea Patterson, who is headed to Ole Miss next season, has thrown five touchdown passes this season while running back Tony Jones has rushed for three touchdowns.
“Our mistakes were something that showed early,” IMG coach Kevin Wright said. “The last couple of games, we’ve had limited turnovers and limited penalties and our execution is a lot better. Our challenge is to get better every week. This is our fourth game against a very physical opponent.”
Cocoa is more run-oriented than IMG as running back Timmy Pratt has run for two touchdowns and 336 yards in two games and quarterback Bruce Judson, an Ohio State commit, has run for 193 yards and four touchdowns and thrown for a touchdown.
“Cocoa has only lost four games in the past four years and the only team in Florida that has beaten them is Booker T. Washington,” Wright said. “I think the biggest thing that concerns us is these guys are used to winning. Regardless of the opponent, they play with a lot of confidence.”
For IMG, this is a return to normalcy of sorts. Counting a preseason game, the Ascenders have played twice on Saturday and once on Sunday, but this is their first night of Friday night football.
2. Shamrocks get a big in-state challenge
Usually, unless its playing crosstown rival St. Xavier, No. 22 Trinity (Louisivlle) has to leave the state to get a tough game, but the Shamrocks (3-0) might have a hard time scoring Friday at Male (Louisville). The Bulldogs (3-0) have seven defensive players returning and are allowing only 4.3 points a game. Last season, the teams split their series. Male won the regular-season game 35-34 in double overtime, but Trinity prevailed in the 6A playoffs, 38-31, again in overtime.
“We lost to them in double-overtime when we went for two and didn’t get it,” Trinity coach Bob Beatty said of last year’s regular-season game with Male. “Would I do that again? There’s no question. Did we learn from that game? We went back to work immediately after that game and spent a great deal of time going over the film and we did learn from it.”
If Male’s defense doesn’t dominate, it has the potential to be a high-scoring game as Male is averaging 50 points a game and Trinity is averaging 48.6 points a game.
Trinity opened the season with two wins against Tennessee teams, including a 31-13 win at Brentwood Academy (Brentwood) on Aug. 28.
“I will take all of those games I can get,” Beatty said. “If you can weather that storm, it’s going to put you one step better than the step we’re going to take at the end of the year in the playoffs. That’s a grind for the players. They go to school in the morning, spend all day at school, then get on a bus at 2:30 p.m. for the 31/2-hour drive to Nashville. They play the game, get a boxed lunch and get back on the bus and get home about 2 a.m. It’s not what you do in the two weeks before that game that prepare you, but what you do starting in January that prepares you for something like that.”
3. Two Top 5 teams get tests in the Northwest
No. 1 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) and No. 5 St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) each hit the road for a game with a state-title contender in the Pacific Northwest. The No. 1 Gaels (2-0) play Friday at Bellevue (Wash.) in the Wolverines’ opener and the No. 5 Braves (2-0) play defending state champion Central Catholic (Portland, Ore.), which was upset 27-14 last week by Jesuit (Portland) in its opener.
Up until last season’s state final loss to Eastside Catholic, the Wolverines had been dominant in Washington, winning six consecutive state titles and 67 consecutive games. Bishop Gorman has been equally dominant in-state, winning its sixth consecutive title last season. The Gaels have won 26 consecutive games.
St. John Bosco has steamrolled its first two opponents, 143-15 behind the play of senior quarterback Quentin Davis (he has completed 34-of-41 passes for 587 yards and eight touchdowns with no interceptions), running back Sean McGrew (9.7 yards a carry) and offensive lineman Wyatt Davis. It will be interesting to see if Central Catholic can slow down the Braves, who won last season’s matchup 42-14 in Bellflower.
4. Colerain gets another big game in La Salle
The No. 9 Cardinals (2-0), coming off an emotional 13-10 victory against St. Xavier (Cincinnati) last week, have a big challenge Friday at defending Division II state champion La Salle (Cincinnati). The Lancers (2-0) are led by senior running back Jeremy Larkin, the second cousin of former Major League Baseball player Barry Larkin. Last week, Larkin rushed for 288 yards and three touchdowns in the Lancers’ 43-20 defeat last week of East Central (St. Leon, Ind.), and last season, he had 2,485 yards and 35 touchdowns . Colerain leads the series 11-9 but this is only the second time the teams have played each other since 2004 and La Salle won last year’s game 40-21.
5. Backyard Bowl might be prelude to state championship
Jenks (Okla.) broke into the Super 25 this week at No. 25, but the Trojans will have to beat a longtime rival Friday to stay in the rankings. Since 1996, the only two 6A state champions in Oklahoma have been Jenks and Union (Tulsa). Last season, Union won the regular-season meeting, called the Backyard Bowl, 24-13, but Trojans came back to win its third consecutive state championship, defeating Union 21-14 in December. This year’s Backyard Bowl is Friday night at A.H. Chapman Stadium in Tulsa. Jenks opened its season with a 58-24 defeat of 6A-II state champion Bixby last week while Union lost 34-30 to eight-time Texas state champion Carroll (Southlake).