IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) has, for a variety of reasons, struggled to play a full 11-game schedule since it began playing varsity football in 2013.
Elite teams didn’t want to lose to a new private-school powerhouse that could recruit. In the past two seasons, the Ascenders also have had games scheduled only to have opponents forfeit instead of playing the talent-laden team.
IMG appears to have tackled the schedule problem, head on, for 2016. In a schedule released today, it will play 12 games, including at least two on TV. The Ascenders will play five teams that spent time in the Super 25 rankings last season and two teams that won state titles and five others whose seasons ended at the hands of a state or independent conference champion.
“We’re pretty excited about it, especially from the standpoint the opportunities our kids will have,” IMG coach Kevin Wright said. “It may not feel this way in the middle of the season. We go from coast to coast and play so many different programs and good programs.”
The Ascenders open at home on Aug. 20 with Carol City, the only Florida team to beat eventual 6A champion Miami Central last year. On Aug. 27, IMG travels to Grayson (Loganville, Ga.), which went 13-1 last season. The game is part of the ESPN High School Kickoff, which will have its schedule finalized later this summer.
On Sept. 3, they take on Centennial (Corona, Calif.), which was the state Open Bowl Division runner-up, in the Honor Bowl at Mission Viejo, Calif., another possible TV game.
RELATED: Schedule set for Honor Bowl
Instead of a patsy for homecoming, the Ascenders get Louisiana Division IV champion Southern Lab (Baton Rouge) on Oct. 7. Two weeks later, on Oct. 21, they travel to Florida 3A champion Trinity Christian (Jacksonville).
Wright took over as IMG’s head coach last year at this time.
“At this point last year, we were in the middle of the (scheduling) process,” Wright said. “This will be year four for us and we have some name recognition. People know about us and we had eight or nine game scheduled within the first month and a half of the process. After that, it gets a little tougher when you’re trying to match the remaining weeks with quality opponents.”
With seven road games, including two trips to California (the Ascenders will also play traditional powerhouse Long Beach Poly), IMG will travel 15,419 round-trip miles this season, more than some college teams.
“Johnny Esfeller (IMG’s media relations manager) said we’ll put in more miles than the University of Florida,” Wright said. “I don’t know if that’s true, but we realized when we set out for a 12-game schedule that travel would be a piece of it. Most high school players don’t have to deal with is this type of travel, but it will prepare them for what they’ll face in college.”
IMG Academy has 13 players in the 2017 class who are considered four-star or five-star athletes by Rivals.com, including two recent high-profile transfers in quarterback Kellen Mond of Reagan (San Antonio, Texas) and linebacker/running back Dylan Moses from Southern Lab.
“A lot of times, you don’t know who you have until the season starts, but I feel pretty good about what we have right now,” Wright said. “It’s good to have a year in and that familiarity with the kids.”
|Carol City HS (Miami, Fla.)||Aug. 20||IMG Academy||7 p.m.||Kickoff Classic|
|Grayson HS (Loganville, Ga.)||Aug. 27||Grayson HS||TBA||TV: ESPN High School Kickoff|
|*Centennial HS (Corona, Calif.)||Sept. 3||Mission Viejo HS (Calif.)||10 p.m.||Honor Bowl (TV, TBD)|
|*Booker T. Washington (Tulsa, Okla.)||Sept. 10||Independence Stadium (La.)||8 p.m.||Lander’s Dodge Battle on the Border|
|St. John’s College HS (Washington D.C.)||Sept. 17||IMG Academy||7 p.m.||Armour Bowl|
|Boyd Anderson HS (Lauderdale Lakes, Fla.)||Sept. 23||IMG Academy||7 p.m.|
|Southern Lab HS (Baton Rouge, La.)||Oct. 7||IMG Academy||7 p.m.||Homecoming|
|Oxbridge Academy (West Palm Beach, Fla.)||Oct. 13||Oxbridge Academy||7 p.m.|
|Trinity Christian Academy (Jacksonville, Fla.)||Oct. 21||Trinity Christian||7:30 p.m.|
|Long Beach Polytechnic HS (Long Beach, Calif.)||Oct. 28||Long Beach Poly||7 p.m.|
|Chaminade-Madonna College Prep (Hollywood, Fla.)||Nov. 5||Chaminade-Madonna||1 p.m.|
|St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, Md.)||Nov. 12||IMG Academy||7 p.m.||Bowl Game|
All kickoff times are Eastern. Kickoff times and locations are subject to change.
*- Indicates neutral site game