High School

High school football game of the week: St. John's vs. IMG Academy

NBC Sports Washington

High school football game of the week: St. John's vs. IMG Academy

The St. John’s Cadets may be one of the top teams in the country and with IMG coming into town on Saturday, they’ll have an opportunity to prove it.

The Cadets began the season 2-0 with convincing wins over Southridge and Deerfield Beach, both schools in Florida. Though victorious, St. John's did not make it through those games unscathed. 

A rash of injuries, particularly in the secondary left them vulnerable. St. John’s followed up their hot start with consecutive road losses to nationally ranked competition. They fell in a heart-breaker to Max Preps’ national No. 12 ranked St. Joseph’s Prep (PA), before being outlasted by No.5 Duncanville last week in Texas. 

The IMG Ascenders are a perennial powerhouse from Bradenton, Fl. They are one of the most successful programs in high school football. It's not difficult to understand why. They are a prep school explicitly designed to foster the growth and development of student-athletes. In 2018 IMG had 12  players ranked as four or five stars. The class of 2019 had 10 student-athletes ranked in the top two tiers and presently, the class of 2020 has nine players already committed to Power 5 Universities. 

The Ascenders are 3-0 this season and over the last five years, they have a combined record of 49-2. 

The Cadets are playing what is considered by many experts, the toughest schedule of any team in the country. They are not backing away from the challenge though, in fact, they view each game as part of the developmental process. “When you line up and play, if you know you’re going to win, you’re playing the wrong people," said St. John’s coach Joe Casamento

On Saturday afternoon, the Cadets have another chance to get it right but it will take a team effort.

Defensively, IMG has allowed only one of their opponents to reach double digits. St. John’s has shown they are capable of being prolific on offense, averaging 36 points per game. 

BYU commit, QB Sol-Jay Maiava has flashed brilliance with both his legs and arm in frequently connecting on big plays with LSU commit and 5-star recruit, Rakim Jarrett. The Cadets offensive line play has been stellar allowing their two-headed rushing attack of Colby McDonald and Antwain Littleton to be dominant at times.

When healthy, St. John’s touts a top tier front seven. Clemson commit, Tre Williams, Taizse Johnson and company have the ability to control the line of scrimmage, and they will need to do so in order to contain IMG’s sophomore sensation, Kaytron Allen. SJC will look to Mekhail Sherman and Greg Hudgins Jr. to make IMG Quarterback DJ Boney uncomfortable while asking Mordecai McDaniel to limit the opportunities of Ascenders’ WR, Corey Palmer. 

At season’s start, Casamento said that "football is like life and life is a challenge. I want my players to be challenged every day."

They’ll face their greatest challenge so far this season Saturday vs. IMG.

Click here for the latest top 25 rankings.

DaLawn Parrish and Wise football reclaim Maryland state title

Photo by Chad Ricardo

DaLawn Parrish and Wise football reclaim Maryland state title

It’s been 379 days since Wise lost to Quince Orchard in their 2018 state semifinal matchup. It’s been 9,096 hours since the Pumas' 48-game win streak was snapped and 545,760 minutes since the then-four-time champion became nothing more than a contender.

That time has passed. Wise is Wise, again.

The Pumas defeated Northwest 35-21 to reclaim the Maryland 4A state championship Friday night. The victory ended a nightmare for head coach DaLawn Parrish that he’d been living in for over a year. Asked how often he’d thought about getting back to this moment, he replied, “just about every day."

From 2015-17, the Pumas experienced so much success that at times Parrish felt his adversaries, as well as some of his supposed supporters, were anxiously waiting to witness Wise’s downfall.

“A lot of times we talk about ‘us against the world,'” Parrish said. “I think back to that QO game and I did feel like everybody wanted us to lose. Even though we had all these people behind us, I felt like half of them was cheering for QO—it was like we weren’t being supported. When I was coming up, everybody wanted to see a dynasty, now it feels like everybody wants to see the underdog win."

Parrish and the Pumas set out to use that loss as a teaching tool for the student athletes, both on and off the field.

“We used it as motivation. It drove me, it drove these young men, it drove my coaches.

"This is bigger than X’s and O’s, it’s about surrounding [these student athletes] with good people. We help them to understand what failure looks like, what it is to continue to try and we teach them that although somedays things don’t go their way, they have to keep pushing forward."

The life lesson was on full display in the state championship game. Friday night was a tale of two halves. During the first, the Jags looked like the better team at times. Northwest quarterback Jordan Morse connected with wide receiver Kaden Prather down the right sideline for a 79-yard score in the first quarter and Ryan Beach zig-zagged 69 yards on a screen pass to even the match seconds before intermission.

The vaunted Wise defense that had only allowed two opponents to score in double figures all season had given up two touchdowns in just two quarters. Asked if anything the Jags did in the first half surprised him and his staff, a jovial Parrish responded, “It surprised me that one of my people blew a coverage,” with a smile. “And I will be honest, [Beach] was quicker than I thought he was. The film doesn’t do him justice."

The Pumas' defense entered the third frame with a renewed energy. It stymied the Jags rushing attack and applied relentless pressure to Morse, registering six sacks on the night.

“I knew that if we got them in 10-personnel, they’d be in trouble because they haven’t seen speed like ours," Parrish said. "A lot of what they do is screens and short passes, so if we could get pressure [on their quarterback], I thought we could blow the game open sooner or later."

After yielding a long completion in the first quarter, Jalil Farooq proved to be a difference maker for Wise. He blanketed Prather in the second half, getting his hands on multiple passes. His third-quarter interception swung the momentum in the Puma’s favor.

“Jalil played a helluva game," teammate Dorian Strong said. “His endless pass break-ups and the pick was key for us."

Farooq would capitalize on his forced turnover moments later, when he ran a reverse in from eight yards out and gave Wise a 28-14 lead.

The Pumas' main source of consistency throughout the evening was sophomore quarterback Jayden Sauray. When the game was in the balance, Sauray delivered. He threw second-half touchdowns to Strong and Keith Boddie Jr. to match his two first-half touchdown runs. The young QB showed skill and leadership beyond his years.

“The way he played with poise was outstanding,” Parrish said. “He doesn’t get rattled much. To be a 15-year old young man and have that kind of poise and confidence is unheard of. To stay the course and remain steady the way he does, just shows who he is and what’s to come [from him] will be outstanding."

The title is the Puma’s fourth in five years and the program’s fifth this decade. However, there is little reason to expect Parrish to celebrate for too long; he’s already planning his next steps,

“We just won this championship and my mind is working on next year," Parrish said. "Who do we have to replace? Who’s coming up from junior varsity? I’m thinking about my seniors and trying to get them in college. My mind is looking outward and I haven’t had a chance to take this all in. It’s like it never stops."

Such is life when you’ve built a dynasty. Wise is Wise, again.


Top 20 DMV boys basketball: PVI, DeMatha lead rankings

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Top 20 DMV boys basketball: PVI, DeMatha lead rankings

Week 2 began with a Virginia rivalry matchup between PVI and Bishop J. O'Connell. Behind Duke commit Jeremy Roach, PVI defeated O'Connell, in a sold-out playoff environment gym.

In other notable matchups, Good Counsel upsetting Gonzaga 59-56 - Bez Mbeng led Good Counsel with 14 points.  Antoine Jacks and Dylan Williamson both contributed 12 points. And Eleanor Roosevelt defeated South River 73-61, and in an out-of-county matchup. In an IAC vs MAC non-conference game between St. Andrews and Georgetown Prep, St. Andrew's took the 89-52 victory. Dylan Edwards led St. Andrews with 15 points. Here's this week's top 25:

1. PVI 

2. DeMatha 

3. Gonzaga 

4. Saint Stephen's Saint Agnes 

5. St. John's 

6. Rock Creek

7. Bullis  

8. Archbishop Carroll

9.  Coolidge

10. Good Counsel

11. Riverdale Baptist 

12.  Bishop McNamara 

13. Thurgood Marshall

14. St. Andrew’s

15. Bishop O’Connell 

16. Georgetown Prep

17. St. Mary's Ryken

18. Wise

19. Wilson 

20. Eleanor Roosevelt 


Click here for the Top 20 girls' rankings.