LOGANVILLE, Ga. — Kellen Mond and No. 4 IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) traveled 505 miles to prove they were one of the best high school football teams in the country.
While it’s only Week 1, Mond’s performance Saturday at least cemented why he is considered one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation in the Ascenders’ 26-7 victory against No. 2 Grayson (Loganville, Ga.)
“It was a pretty hostile environment down here, but we were ready from the opening kickoff,” Mond said.
The game was part of the GEICO ESPN High School Kickoff and featured 17 players ranked in the ESPN 300.
A Texas A&M commit, Mond was effective with his arm and his feet as the Ascenders rattled off 26 consecutive points after falling behind 7-0. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound quarterback finished the day with 114 yards and a touchdown through the air. He also ran the ball 33 times for 137 yards and two scores.
Mond said he began to feel more comfortable both running and throwing the ball after IMG fell behind. One minute, 32 seconds into the second quarter, Grayson quarterback Chase Brice faked a handoff to Kurt Taylor and found receiver Jamyest Williams on a post route for a 56-yard score and 7-0 lead for Grayson.
That was the last time Grayson would score.
On the ensuing drive, Mond gained every yard, including a 15-yard touchdown scamper that capped off IMG’s 15-play, 80-yard drive.
“(Grayson) is a 3-5 defense and they like to pressure you and so we tried to spread them out with our numbers and run a lot of quarterback draws,” IMG head coach Kevin Wright said.
This was a common theme during a majority of the night. Whenever Grayson put more numbers into the box, Mond threw a quick pass to one of his wide receivers on the edge. When IMG went to an empty set, Mond saw an opportunity to run the quarterback draw.
Wright joked that Saturday was more than Mond ever ran during his days in Texas before transferring to IMG last spring.
“It all starts with the guys up front,” Mond said. “It’s nice to be able run behind a big offensive line.”
That offensive line averages 6-5 and 325 pounds and opened up plenty of holes for the speedy quarterback.
On IMG’s second drive of the second half, Mond ran the quarterback draw on every play expect one as he punched in the second IMG touchdown of the game to put the Ascenders ahead 16-7.
“He is just so versatile,” Grayson cornerback Jamyest Williams said. “You have to watch for too many things with him. He can beat you in so many different ways.”
When Mond wasn’t giving the Grayson defense fits, his defense was making life difficult from the Grayson offense.
After Grayson’s lone score, it gained only 71 more yards of offense the rest of the game. The Ascenders’ defense forced the Rams into two fumbles, an interception and two turnover-on-downs, which led to nine IMG points.
“We finished all of our assignments really well,” IMG linebacker Dylan Moses said. “We kept our heads and stayed focus after we went down and we were just so solid up front. I joke that some of our d-line guys were taking my tackles.”
Cooper Graham hit field goals of 37 and 34 yards and gave IMG a lead it would not relinquish in the second quarter.
With the clock winding down in the fourth quarter, Mond sealed the IMG victory with a 6-yard toss to wide receiver Jhamon Ausbon for his third touchdown.
“It was a total team effort and it was great to come up here and play a good team and get the win,” Mond said.