Pine-Richland shut out by national power IMG Academy
Coming off of a perfect season and a PIAA championship, Pine-Richland got a quick return to reality to start the 2018 campaign.
A game against the top-ranked high school team in the country certainly did not help.
Pine-Richland could only muster 80 yards of offense, and fell to IMG Academy, 42-0, in a Week Zero contest.
IMG Academy got the scoring going with a Noah Cain 4-yard run on the Ascenders’ first possession. Less than two minutes later, after a Rams 9-yard punt, David Baldwin-Griffin found a diving Michael Redding in the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown, giving IMG Academy a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
After another three-and-out for Pine-Richland, Cain again found the end zone, this time from 12 yards out. IMG Academy took a 21-0 lead to end the first quarter.
After that, the Pine-Richland defense began to step it up. Andrew Kristofic forced a Baldwin-Griffin fumble that landed right into the waiting arms of Trent Miller, who returned it to the IMG 21-yard line. However, the Rams offense could not gain any traction and turned the ball over on downs.
“I’m was extremely proud (of our defense),” Pine-Richland coach Eric Kasperowicz said. “We figured it out a little bit. I thought the guys played hard. We just couldn’t get things done on offense. They battled. They never quit.”
However, it was IMG Academy’s defense that made the big play in the quarter. Florida State commit Jaleel McRae stepped in front of a Cole Swanson pass and scampered 42 yards untouched into the end zone to extend the lead to 28-0 for the Ascenders.
Pine-Richland’s best drive of the game came during the two-minute drill at the end of the half. Spencer completed three passes on the drive, and got the Rams into field goal range with just two seconds remaining in the half. However, Mason Pruh’s 39-yard field goal attempt came up short.
The Ascenders took the second-half kickoff, and marched right down the field on a 77-yard scoring drive.
On the 10th play of the series, Baldwin-Griffin took a designed run up the middle and dove for the goal line. The ball was knocked loose from his possession, but offensive lineman Charles Turner recovered it in the end zone for the touchdown, putting the mercy rule into effect.
IMG Academy (1-0 ) is an athletic-based boarding school in Bradenton, Fla. Ranked No. 1 in the country, according to USA Today, the Ascenders’ roster features more than 20 players with Division I scholarship offers. The Ascenders, who extend their winning streak to 38 games, play all across the country against the nation’s top teams.
“Our basketball director (Brian Nash) is from Pennsylvania,” IMG coach Kevin Wright said. “He first got us interested, told us about some great football in the area. We talked to Coach Kasperowicz, liked what we saw in their program, and were glad we could set up this game.”
Despite a lopsided loss, Kasperowicz believes there was much gained for the season ahead for Pine-Richland (0-1) before the conference opener next Saturday against Hempfield.
“I think you learn so much more when you lose a game like this than when you win a game so easily,” he said. “Now, we have great film on tape of what we need to do a little bit better.”
James Dotson is a freelance writer.