What We Learned: No. 8 IMG Academy tops Miami Northwestern

Photo: IMG Academy
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No. 8 IMG Academy survived a road challenge Friday night, outlasting perennial Florida power Miami Northwestern, 24-7, at Traz Powell Stadium in Miami.

It wasn’t a particularly pretty performance by either team, and the Ascenders relied on their stifling defense and timely big plays on special teams to wear down a stout Bulls team.

With the win, the Ascenders improve to 2-0. IMG was coming off an unexpected bye week, as its Aug. 30 game against Miami Norland was canceled in anticipation of Hurricane Dorian. The Ascenders play next Friday at No. 14 St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia in a game that will be televised on ESPNU.

Northwestern (2-1), ranked No. 10 in the Southeast by USA TODAY High School Sports, plays at Miami’s Killion High next Thursday.

Here are our takeaways from Friday’s IMG Academy-Miami Northwestern game:

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1.) img can win ugly

Despite failing to put together much of anything offensively, the Ascenders seemed determined to get the job done by whatever means necessary after clinging to a narrow 3-0 halftime lead.

IMG defensive back OJ Burroughs scored the first touchdown of the game early in the third quarter on a 57-yard interception return, putting his team ahead 10-0. After Northwestern responded with a touchdown on its next drive, the Ascenders’ Ari Allen returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown to build the lead back up to double digits at 17-7.

IMG capitalized on another big play by its special teams midway through the third quarter. Michael Redding blocked a punt inside the Northwestern 5-yard line, setting the stage for a 2-yard touchdown run by Ascenders tailback Kaytron Allen.

2.) defenses ruled the day

At this point of the season, many defenses are still ahead of the offenses. That was certainly the case at Traz Powell Stadium on Friday, despite an early burst of power from IMG running back Lovasea Carroll.

On the first play from scrimmage, Carroll galloped around the left end and down the sideline for an apparent 84-yard touchdown run. A holding call, however, nullified the score and set the stage for the subsequent slugfest.

Burroughs was the clear standout of the game, recording four interceptions. In addition to the pick-six, he stifled two imminent Northwestern scoring threats with interceptions — one occurred in the end zone and the other at the IMG 1-yard line.

Northwestern allowed only one offensive touchdown, the short run by Allen that was set up by a blocked punt.

3.) northwestern will be better for this loss

Not many public schools are willing to schedule the powerhouse that is IMG Academy. But Northwestern, alma mater of Amari Cooper, Teddy Bridgewater and many other current and former NFL players, stepped up to the challenge. The Bulls will not play another team as athletic as IMG, and except for a few big plays they hung with the Ascenders.

Northwestern’s defense contained IMG’s offense for most of the night, allowing for a game that was closer than the final score.

The Bulls, defending Class 6A state champions, did enjoy one offensive highlight early in the second quarter. Less than a minute after Burroughs scored for IMG, Northwestern quarterback Taron Dickens connected with Kahlil Brantley on a 76-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 10-7. The pass itself was short, and Brantley eluded several defenders while dashing about 70 of those yards after the catch down the left sideline.

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