In September, No. 8 St. Frances Academy strong safety Breon Noel mused about his school’s lack of practice field, weight room, and the other usual facilities you would see at a football powerhouse.
“I’m kind of glad we don’t got the facility,” Noel said. “We know how it feel to come up and come down. We know how it feel to not have nothing, you get what I’m saying. Other schools have great things but they don’t produce on the field, they don’t show on the field.”
On Friday, Panthers were put to the test against the quintessential powerhouse of high school football that does have beautiful facilities, fields and everything a program could want: IMG Academy of Bradenton, Florida.
St. Frances got its statement win.
With its 35-7 beatdown of No. 5 IMG, the Baltimore team has proven it is a powerhouse.
St. Frances has had a mighty turnaround starting in 2016, but its September loss to Mater Dei (Santa Ana, California) made the Panthers look like they may be out of their element against these national contenders. But the win over IMG proved it belongs.
Here are some takeaways from the game:
Blake Corum might be underrated
It’s not just his huge linemen or play calling. Running back Blake Corum has now put up 200 total yards against two of the best defenses in the country in IMG and Mater Dei.
Corum is widely regarded as one of the best running backs in the country. He is a Michigan commit, is ranked by the 247Sports Composite as the No. 13 at his position and No. 143 in the country.
But might those rankings be too low? It’s tough to imagine 12 backs leading an offense better than this player. Could there really be 142 players better?
He has bounce that lets him slide around and get to the outside. He can break tackles. His bursts of speed allow him to pass defenders when he gets room. Corum also has receiving abilities and can gain yardage after the catch.
Corum had two touchdowns. He had two catches with big yards-after-receptions to set up a different one for a teammate. A 40-yard run set up yet another. Sophomore quarterback John Griffith has been coming along throughout the year, but the offense runs through Corum.
Even with all the positives written about him throughout year, it’s possible the national recruiting sites have been underrating this running back.
All-around strong play from SFA
In baseball, one of the biggest things a pitcher can do is follow an inning where his offense scores with a shutdown frame to keep the tide on his team’s side.
Well, St. Frances set the tone after Corum’s first touchdown, a 37-yard run midway through the first. The Ascenders returned the kickoff to just the 10-yard line before getting tackled. On the first play of the drive, the Panthers tackled the running back for a loss. On the second, they intercepted a deep pass.
Then they got the ball back into Corum’s hands. He had a pair of receptions to set the Panthers up for another touchdown.
Of course a game against IMG can never be decided in the first quarter. But with a 14-0 lead after that frame, and giving IMG only two possessions in it, the Panthers took control of the game from the get-go. It was an excellent game plan and excellent execution all around.
IMG is out of the National Championship race
It’s brutal, the way one poor game can knock a team out of the championship race.
But after getting taken down by St. Frances, it’s tough to conceive a way IMG could get back in. St. Frances’ 34-18 loss to Mater Dei in September was more of a blowout than the score indicates. Even if the Panthers struggle in their final four games and IMG dominates, the Ascenders won’t be able to make up for the fact they lost to a team that got beat by another one ranked over both.
St. Frances has proven it’s one of the best teams in the country.
When looking back at its 2019 season, the Panthers can say they did so against IMG.