St. Frances jumped to a 14-point first-quarter lead against IMG Academy from Bradenton, Florida, on Friday night. The Panthers were moving the ball on the ground and in the air, and despite some mid-game struggles, they rolled to a 35-7 victory.
Blake Corum ran for 180 yards and two touchdowns, and top-ranked St. Frances’ defense kept the IMG offense quiet long enough for the Panthers to rout the Ascenders in a battle of nationally ranked opponents at Morgan State’s Hughes Stadium.
Both teams are ranked in the USA TODAY high school poll. IMG came into the game at No. 5 and had won 53 of its previous 54 games, while St. Frances was at No. 8. But the Panthers took the early lead and then held off a mid-game charge from IMG before taking command in the second half where they outscored the Ascenders, 21-0.
Corum sparked the offense by coming up with the runs St. Frances (7-1) needed. He ran both inside and outside, and IMG (7-1) could not find a way to stop him.
“The offensive line was getting great push for me,” Corum said. “I couldn’t have done it without the offensive line. Our confidence is really high right now. We are finally reaching our peak.”
The senior running back showed his speed several times and his strength on other occasions, driving a pile of Ascender defenders backwards to gain extra yards and help the Panthers keep possession. St. Frances’ ability to control the ball with Corum and the running game kept IMG’s offense off the field for long amounts of time.
St. Frances moved the ball into IMG territory on its first drive but had to punt. The Panthers’ running game was effective on that opening drive, and it fared better on the next possession.
They began that drive at the Panther 41 and quickly moved downfield, capping the drive with a 36-yard Corum touchdown run. Corum made a quick cut to the right and broke free. Jordan Lane kicked the extra point that gave St. Frances a 7-0 lead with 5:44 left in the opening period.
The Panthers made it 14-0 on the next drive. This time, quarterback John Griffith made some good passes, the last of which was a 7-yard touchdown toss to Jahmal Banks with 1:44 left in the period.
IMG then brought in DJ Boney at quarterback, and he helped the offense begin moving. The Ascenders drove deep into St. Frances territory before facing a fourth-and-1 at the 26. Kaytron Allen ran, but defensive back Breon Noel drilled him for a 3-yard loss.
After the Panthers went three-and-out, IMG drove 82 yards and scored in the final minute of the first half when Boney threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Corey Palmer. That left St. Frances with a 14-7 halftime lead.
The Panthers then stopped Boney and the offense on the first drive of the second half. Then, St. Frances took off on an 80-yard scoring drive that ended with Corum running for a 5-yard touchdown.
Griffith made a key play on the drive by completing a 39-yard pass to Denylon Morrissette. A few plays later, Corum made a 13-yard catch and scored on the next snap to give the Panthers a 21-7 lead.
St. Frances locked everything up with a 91-yard drive that started late in the third quarter. The Panthers ran on every play before Kevin Thompson finished it with a 28-yard touchdown. Lane’s extra point made it 28-7 with 8:35 remaining.
Corum added a 54-yard run on the team’s next drive that set up the team’s final score, a 3-yard touchdown run from Cam Kodua with 1:38 remaining.
“It puts us right back in the hunt for the national championship,” St. Frances co-coach Biff Poggi said. “That wasn’t just a win, it was a dominant win. I think the key was we stopped the run. Our defense played great all game long.”
IMG 0 7 0 0 - 7
SF 14 0 7 14 - 35
S- Corum 36 run (Lane kick)
S- Banks 7 pass from Griffith (Lane kick)
I- Palmer 8 pass from Boney (Buck kick)
S- Corum 5 run (Lane kick)
S- Thompson 28 run (Lane kick)
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S- Kodua 3 run (Lane kick)