St. Frances disposes of nation’s No. 3 IMG Academy; Corum rushes for 192 yards, 2 TDs


St. Frances’ Blake Corum runs away from IMG Academy’s Zach Boot during Friday night’s football contest at Morgan State University. Corum finished with 192 yards rushing and scored twice as the top-ranked Panthers dominated the second half against the Florida national powerhouse for a 35-7 decision in front of nearly 3,000 at Hughes Stadium. (photo – Jimmy Fields Sr.)

by Derek Toney

St. Frances Academy football’s game against Florida’s IMG Academy Friday evening at Morgan State University was an opportunity to show why it’s regarded as one of the country’s elite on a big local stage.

The Panthers didn’t disappoint. Top-ranked St. Frances defeated previously undefeated IMG, 35-7,  in front of an estimated 3,000 at Hughes Stadium.

University of Michigan commit Blake Corum rushed for 192 yards and two touchdowns for the Panthers (7-1 overall), and Kevin Thompson and Cam Kodua each added a rushing score.

The Panthers, ranked 5th nationally by MaxPreps, pulled away in the second half, winning for the 30th time in 31 decisions. The East Baltimore school’s lone loss in that stretch came last month against California’s Mater Dei, the consensus nation’s No. 1 team.

After dismantling nation’s No. 3 IMG, which handed them their other loss since 2016, the Panthers are back in the national title hunt.

“You learn a lot from losses and Mater Dei was a heck of a team…we learned when IMG beat us. That’s where you got to get to,” said St. Frances co-coach Harry Russell. “We learned a lot from our mistakes. Tonight, we played how St. Frances plays and that’s disciplined, tough, physical football.”

“They gave us two weeks to prepare for IMG and that’s dangerous,” said Corum. “We clicked, practice was fun. Guys were enjoying themselves. When that happens, this is the outcome.”

This season, opponents’ game plan for St. Frances’ offense has been simple: Stop Corum. It’s been easier said than done, and Friday, the 5-foot-8, 190-pounder wore down the Ascenders in the second half.

Corum rushed for 136 yards over the final 24 minutes, including a 54-yard jaunt down the sidelines on his final carry. He also caught three passes for 48 yards and finished with nearly 300 all-purpose yards.

“He’s a warrior. He refuses to be outworked,” said Russell. “He’s special. We remember these games because you don’t see a kid like this all the time…He’s unbelievable.”

Corum got help. Thompson rushed for 41 yards on four carries, and sophmore quarterback John Griffith finished 8-of-12 for 116 yards with a 6-yard touchdown throw to Wake Forest commit Jahmal Banks.

It began with St. Frances’ massive line featuring Tyler Thomas, Jakai Green, Micah Mazzccua, Mike Statham, Xavier Castillo and tight end Joe Bearns neutralized IMG’s defensive front, featuring Clemson commit Delmonte Capehart, Josh Griffis (Florida State) and Warren Brinson (Georgia).

St. Frances rushed for 280 yards Friday evening.

“They were getting a great push for me, allowing me to get the second level,” said Corum, who had 6 runs of 10 yards or more. “When it’s like that, I carry a chip on my shoulder, not to get tackle by one person.”

Corum got to the sidelines and accelerated for a 36-yard touchdown, getting St. Frances up 7-0 in the first quarter. He did most of the work in the Panthers’ next possession with 2 catches for 39 yards as Griffith threw a strike to Banks (2 catches, 20 yards), extending the lead to 14-0 late in the opening quarter.

After being denied inside of St. Frances’ 30, courtesy of Breon Noel’s tackle for loss, IMG (7-1) got its only score on its next possession. The Ascenders went 82 yards in 10 plays as quarterback DJ Boney connected with Corey Palmer from 9 yards with 29 seconds left in the opening half, cutting the lead to 14-7.

The Bradenton, Florida school, ranked 5th in USA Today’s Super 25, moved the ball against St. Frances’ defense, advancing the Panthers’ 45 to start the second half, but was forced to punt. The Panthers went 80 yards in 7 plays, starting with three rushes from Corum and Griffith’s 37-yard pass to Denylon Morrissette. Corum powered his way across the goal line, putting St. Frances back up 14.

“Once we got that two-score lead, I thought we started feeling more confident,” said Russell.

After Corum went to the sidelines after losing his helmet following a run for a 1st down, Thompson exploded through the middle and went untouched to the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown, making it 28-7 with 8:35 left in regulation. Cam Kodua added the final score with a 3-yard run, following Corum’s 54-yard finale of his evening.

The Panthers’ defense didn’t allow IMG past midfield after its second half-opening drive. Chris Braswell and Nakai Hill-Green each had a sack and junior Clinton Burton had a first half interception.

St. Frances senior linebacker Osman Savage said having an extra week was critical.

“We have got a little saying ’11 a.m., 11 angry men to the ball,’ it’s a pride thing,” said Savage, who’s committed to Michigan.

Savage was a precocious freshman running back when St. Frances absorbed a 38-0 loss to IMG Academy in Florida to end its 2016 season. The loss fueled the Panthers, who devoured their way to the MIAA A Conference title in 2017 and into the national rankings. They were set to make a statement a few weeks ago in California against defending national Mater Dei.

Final score: Mater Dei 34, St. Frances 18.

“We were individuals in the Mater Dei game,”  said Corum. “We clicked and now we’re peaking. We’re brotherhood…a family.”

The Panthers relished playing in front of a huge audience in Baltimore Friday. St. Frances play home games at Patterson Park’s Utz Field.

“We had a different feel in that game [vs. Mater Dei]. We were excited about all the lights and cameras. This week was different, there was a focus,” said Russell. “We played great assignment football.”

There were questions whether St. Frances were a legitimate national player after the Mater Dei loss. The Panthers silenced some of their so-called critics Friday with a dominant performance against one of the nation’s elite.

“This is the biggest win we’ve ever had…I don’t think anybody in this area has beaten a national Top 5 team. I think we’re the best team in the country,” said Russell, whose team is 8th in USA Today’s Super 25. “I know we got beat by Mater Dei, but if they had to come out here and play at night it wouldn’t be easy. This win was incredible.”

No. 1 St. Frances Academy 35, IMG Academy 7

at Morgan State University

IMG 0 7 0 0 – 7

St. Frances 14 0 7 14 – 35

First quarter

St. Frances – Blake Corum 36 run (Jordan Lane kick)

St. Frances – Jahmal Banks 6 pass to John Griffth (Lane kick)

Second quarter

IMG – DJ Boney pass to Corey Palmer (Erickson Buck kick)

Third quarter

St. Frances – Corum 5 run (Lane kick)

Fourth quarter

St. Frances – Kevin Thompson 27 run (Lane kick)

St. Frances – Cam Kodua 3 run (Lane kick)