Sarasota, Fla. — Good morning, DawgNation. I did get a few hours of sleep. That’s after watching lighting delays back up the start time of what would be a thrilling American Heritage (Plantation) at IMG pairing in South Florida.
The game ended early Sunday morning and players were still filing out of the locker rooms about an hour after 3-star SEC target Nick Eubanks picked a pass at his own 5 on the game’s final play and brought it back all the way for a game-ending 95-yard interception return.
Final. American Heritage with the Pick-6 on the game's final play. Patriots 19, IMG 7. pic.twitter.com/LIuPhy4nBQ
— Jeff Sentell (@JeffSentell_) August 23, 2015
That came on the heels of IMG’s Drake Davis hauling in a potential game-tying touchdown on the game’s initial final play of the game. That clutch grab was wiped away by a holding call. American Heritage-Plantation left Bradenton with a 19-7 victory versus a squad USA Today ranked as the No. 2 team in the nation.
Drake Davis with no time left. Tied it at 13. Not so fast. Hold wiped away another IMG TD. pic.twitter.com/0FunPeD2hh
— Jeff Sentell (@JeffSentell_) August 23, 2015
That ballgame also went heavy on the SEC prospects and UGA targets. Here’s the skinny on all of those guys:
5 takeways from American Heritage at IMG
1) Nauta has had much better days
The box score reads the nation’s No. 1 tight end had three catches for 55 yards. 5-star UGA target Isaac Nauta also recovered a crucial fumble at his own 14 that otherwise would’ve staked American Heritage to another easy touchdown drive.
Yet Nauta found little solace in that after the game. He had two drops. The latter of those came on the next-to-last IMG drive. He quickly recovered to catch a big pass over the middle to spark a potential game-winning rally on the final IMG series. Ole Miss verbal Shea Patterson came right back to him on the next play and he took the business end of a jarring collision.
Nauta stayed down on the field for about a minute, but walked away under his own power and returned to the game. Nauta told the AJC afterward those were the first balls he could ever recall dropping in a high school game. He also played the entire second half with what looked like a nagging hip flexor issue.
“No excuses man,” Nauta said. “When a ball hits my hands I’m supposed to catch it.”
I was bound to have one of those nights, just gotta flush it and get ready for next week
— ICE ❄️❄️❄️❄️ (@inauta18) August 23, 2015
2. The Brian Burns story is as good as it gets
Major UGA DE target Brian Burns had a memorable Saturday. He was at his beloved grandfather’s funeral until 3 p.m. on Saturday and then booked it in his church clothes some 225 miles to Bradenton. He had not slept well in weeks as he watched his grandfather decline in health, but still sparked his team.
When he sprinted to the field shortly before the expected kickoff time, it lifted up his team. Burns was part of a terrific American Heritage pass rush that limited IMG all night. His story was a prism into the very best brotherhood and team-building concepts that are inherent with high school football.
Those collective experiences that mature young boys into men is why high school football has been and will continue to be one of the finest character-delivery and character-revealing activities imaginable for our youth.
Yeah, that might sound a little over the top but watch this video first before you judge.
3. The best player out there was …..
There were at least 15 Power 5 players that played in the game. That number can be expanded to maybe 35 total NCAA Division I football players on the field Saturday night, but the best one of them all will no doubt make Urban Meyer dance the jig when he gets to Columbus.
IMG defensive tackle Malik Barrow is seen by the 247sports composite as the 27th-best defensive tackle in the nation and that number should shoot up north very soon. There is no way there are even 10 defensive linemen in the country better than that guy.
Barrow has lost some weight he carried earlier in the summer and was a brutalizing force at 6 feet, 3 inches and 280 pounds. The 4-star prospect stood out in fall camp at IMG and delivered at least three highlight plays against American Heritage. The press box count had him with two sacks and at least two tackles for losses.
Imagine what he’ll do when the IMG defensive line is back at full strength.
— Josh Newberg (@joshnewberg247) August 23, 2015
4. These are not excuses
IMG inside linebacker Rahshaun Smith is not in the “coulda, woulda and shoulda” business. No football player worth his hip pads would lose a tight game to a great team and then point out the players who weren’t “up” for his team. That’s an admirable attitude, but it should be noted IMG was not at full strength.
5-star DT Shavar Manuel is rated as one of the nation’s Top 10 players, but he didn’t suit up on Saturday due to a coach’s decision. LSU 5-star CB commit Saivion Smith also did not play against American Heritage. The Ascenders also lost Purdue commitment Jack Wegher at RB midway through the game with what appeared to be a slight-to-moderate ankle injury.
If they played, the teams might still be tied at 7. Both defenses were game to stop just about any drive. The Patriots got their game-winning score on a drive keyed by a big gain on a reverse and then a short pass to 3-star WR Brandon Johnson that he turned into a 44-yard touchdown pass. He’s the son of former MLB catcher Charles Johnson.
He told American Heritage coach Michael Rumph before the game to stop worrying about it. The way he said it even relaxed Rumph.
5. Early contender for best defense in the country?
American Heritage’s pass rush and defensive front flustered IMG 5-star QB Shea Patterson the entire night. It seemed as if he was either rolling out or buying time with his feet to move the chains all night. He finally managed a play by completing a big ball or it wound up being negated by a holding penalty. IMG also had another touchdown wiped from the board due to a penalty.
According to the Bradenton Herald, Patterson went 18-for-35 on the night for 218 yards with one interception.
Patterson will likely entomb himself in the IMG film room for the next few days, but he might not see a better defense all season. Sure, Burns is a terrific edge rusher but junior LB James Houston was around the ball all game long. Junior DT George Ellis and sophomore DE Andrew Chatfield were also in Patterson’s grill when it counted.
The big thing was the boldness of the scheme. American Heritage lined up in a lot of Cover Zero and asked their corners to blanket IMG’s highly-rated receivers. Sophomore cornerback Patrick Surtain, Jr. had a very impressive game on Saturday locking down the other side of the field. He’s already seen as a 5-star prospect and one of the nation’s top players for the Class of 2018. Imagine how much better the Patriots would be if 2017 4-star cornerback Marco Wilson was healthy and able to play this season. His father also played in the NFL. Junior CB Will Allen also proved adept in coverage in his own right. His father also played at Syracuse and then in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins and New York Giants.
How athletic is Wilson? I’ll leave you with this video. Go ahead and dust off a place on the floor for your jaw to land.
Jeff Sentell covers UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges.