Bucs challenge IMG Academy
By Wayne Wood
The Hoover Bucs are taking on a challenge of the powerful IMG Academy Ascenders this week at the Met. While the Bucs have played some very talented teams through their history, this game will feature a team loaded with Division 1 college prospects unlike any they’ve faced before. Year in and year out, high school players come to Bradenton, Florida (about 45 miles south of Tampa) to enroll & participate in this private boarding school to hopefully improve their athletic/football skills as well as academic standing. It is a very rigid, structured & disciplined environment, unlike the normal high school scene.
The school began nearly 40 years ago in 1978 as a tennis boarding school and gradually expanded over time to include other sports for both boys & girls. The tuition cost to attend is pretty high (about $68,000 per year) & the standards obviously are high.
They began fielding a football team in 2013 and have not lost a game since 2014. Players come from various locations across the nation with the intent of going to college and then into the professional ranks. The tough competition in practice & workouts makes it blend for them like it would a normal freshman year in college. Which is to say..Very Challenging!
Some players might attend 2-3 years while others might be there a year or even 1 semester in a few cases. Obviously, it has caused controversy with some states high school football programs. Some states won’t allow their member schools to even schedule IMG and while the Ascenders play a national schedule of powerhouse teams & a few from Florida they aren’t allowed to compete for a state title. They are, however, ranked high weekly in national high school football polls. Depending on the poll, they have ranked anywhere from #1 to #3 this year.
The team is divided into two squads: A Blue Team (which is the most talented one which Hoover will play) and a White Team (which plays mostly Florida or local competition). To date, the Blue Team is 6-0 with a most recent win over a team out in Utah. They had an off week last week as the Bucs were preparing for & eventually playing an emotional loss for the region title to Thompson.
This isn’t the correct title but to look at the size and ability of I.M.G. one could say that it stands for Intimidating Mighty Goliath! The roster indicates more than a dozen linemen over 300 lbs. and some others well over 250. For instance, one offensive lineman (who comes from Australia) is about 6-9; 400 while another is about 6-8; 385. Several players are 6-4 or taller & it’s certain every skill player is blessed with great speed & ability.
It’s going to be a HUGE Challenge for the Hoover Bucs especially coming off a tough 32-25 loss to Thompson with the state playoffs beginning the following week. Most “experts” don’t give the Bucs a chance against this team.
However, the Bucs have never shied away from a challenge against the odds in competition on the football field. It is a standard we embrace at Hoover. By the way, there is a story about a boy who was a shepherd a few thousand years ago in the land of Israel by the name of David who met a veteran, giant soldier by the name of Goliath on the field of battle. Goliath was fully armed while David only had a slingshot & a few stones which he was proficient with. The final score was David 1=Goliath 0. Who knows what can happen? GO BUCS!