Coming off a victorious 2020-2021 season, the Patriots football team trained all summer to defend their title as Florida state champions in Division 5A. Defeating teams like previous state champions Northwestern High School and Tampa Jesuit High School last season, the Patriots proved their worth as one of the top football teams in Florida. However, their first official matchup of the 2021-2022 preseason would be their toughest challenge in years.
In July, the Patriot coaching staff organized a game with the IMG coaching staff between the two teams for Aug. 20th. The IMG Ascenders are arguably the most decorated high school football team in the country, as they have recorded multiple undefeated seasons for several years and have been ranked the number one team in the nation by Maxpreps for many seasons (second in the nation and first in Florida this season). The team is completely stacked with top Division I prospects and future NFL players; for the first time in years, the Patriots would be considered the underdogs in this matchup.
The game started off with the Ascenders striking first in the Patriot endzone, as four star wide receiver Carnell Tate blew past the defense for the early lead. The Patriots tried to respond but could only do so with a field goal, making the score 7-3. Then, the Ascenders scored again with a touchdown from another one of their four star recruits, Kaytron Allen, making the score 14-3. The Patriots made a slight comeback with a touchdown from junior running back Mark Fletcher making the score 14-9 to close out the half, but IMG would prove to be unstoppable yet again, with another touchdown from Keytron Allen to make it 21-9.
IMG continued to extend their lead, as Blake Murphy, junior quarterback for the Patriots, would throw a pick 6 capitalized by Trevon Howard of the Ascenders, making it 28-9. After this, Patriots would make their last successful attempt at a touchdown through a catch by junior wide receiver, Brandon Inniss; however, IMG would extend their lead yet again with a touchdown from sophomore running back, Stacy Cage, making the final score 35-15.
This game proved to be a challenge for the Patriots junior linebacker and current Harvard commit, Jaeden Kinlock, who said, “The moment I stepped on the field, I knew it was going to be a battle for 48 minutes. We had many scoring opportunities throughout the game, but their defense was just too organized to break through. As for our defense, we couldn’t really stop them (IMG) at all, only slow them down. It was a really tough game.”
When speaking to his players after the game, Coach Surtain said, “They were a hell of a football team, but we still have to fix little things about our game, or we won’t be able to defeat the solid teams in our division this year.”
The Patriots plan to use this loss as a learning experience as they still look to defend their state title and improve their national ranking.