Tension remains high at Lipscomb Academy as the varsity football team prepares to go against IMG Academy in this Friday’s game. Currently ranked no. 4 nationally, the Ascenders are proving themselves to be the Mustang’s biggest competition in years. Lipscomb Academy students are not the only ones anxious to watch the game. With over 2,000 tickets sold, this game is attracting a lot of attention nationwide, with even coaches like Nick Saban rumored to attend.
What’s New With The Mustangs
Following the 2022-2023 football season, the Mustangs have experienced multiple changes to their football program. Looking forward to the new season, you can expect to see a lot of new faces after the loss of LA’s head coach, Trent Dilfer, and the loss of key players who graduated. After Dilfer left to pursue a college coaching position at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), Lipscomb hired former NFL player, Hall of Famer and All-Pro player Kevin Mawae. Mawae has previous coaching experience as an assistant offensive line coach for the Indianapolis Colts. Deuce Knight (QB), class of 2025, transferred from George County (Mississippi) to join the Mustangs. Knight will be taking the lead, following in former LA quarterback Hank Brown’s footsteps. Knight is a weapon that Lipscomb is looking to showcase against IMG Academy this Friday, with a 61.7% pass success rate of 1929 yards, 11 TD, and 4 INT his sophomore year. He is ranked No.4 in Tennessee and No.78 nationally, ranked the 5th best player in his position and is a 4-star quarterback. As for the team, they face an even greater hurdle this upcoming season. Following the end of their last season, the Mustangs transferred from Division II-AA to Division II-AAA. They will face tougher schools from across the country, such as IMG Academy. This includes Saraland(AL) and Christion-Brothers(MO).
- The Mustangs won the past 2 state championships against Christ Presbyterian Academy.
- They remained undefeated in 2022, with only 1 loss in the past 2 years.
- Lipscomb Academy had two out-of-state victories to initiate the 2022-23 season, conquering Milton High School (GA) and Thompson High School (AL).
- Lipscomb ended the 2022 season ranked No. 13 nationally, but is currently ranked No. 19.
- Critical players lost: Former senior Junior Sherrill (WR) was 2022 MaxPreps Tennessee High School Football Player of the Year. He was ranked the No. 23 competitor in Tennessee by Rivals and the No. 155 wide receiver in his class by ESPN. Sherrill is now attending and playing at Vanderbilt University. Former senior Hank Brown (QB) is a record-breaking quarterback. He guided the Mustangs to a flawless 13-0 record and the 2022 Tennessee D2-AA State Championship. Brown recommitted from Liberty University and is now attending and playing at Auburn University.
- Former Head Coach Trent Dilfer maintained a 42-10 record when he coached four seasons at Lipscomb Academy. Thanks in part to Dilfer’s leadership, the Mustangs are the top-ranked team in the state, according to the Tennessee Super 25 high school football rankings. Trent Dilfer accepted a head coaching job at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and was replaced by Kevin Mawae.
- IMG’s football team has shown to be impressive in the past as they have been ranked top 10 nationally for 5 years straight and are currently ranked no. 4 in the U.S. During the 2022-2023 season, IMG was overall 8-1 (0.89% win) losing only to central (Miami) with a final score of 20-14.
- IMG contains some of the most skilled players, including two that are ranked in the top 10 nationally. Ellis Robinson IV plays the position of cornerback and is currently ranked no. 4 in the nation (0.9974 composite nationally, 5 stars), he is also committed to Georgia. David Stone plays the position of defensive lineman and is currently ranked no. 6 in the nation (0.9968 composite nationally, 5 stars).
- More than 200 student athletes from IMG have been placed in college programs since its inception. IMG has seen 140 D1 commits and seven of their alumni were drafted in the NFL in 2021.
- The Ascenders were 2020 National Champions.
- IMG has a national ranking and undefeated record in 2015, 2016, and 2017.
- The head coach is Billy Miller, who joined IMG Academy in 2014 after spending 3 years as an assistant coach for the NFL
Lipscombs star Cornerback, Kaleb Beasley, will be going against one of IMG’s starting wide receivers, Jarrae Hawkins. Beasley is ranked 146th nationally, No. 15 in his position, and No. 1 in Tennessee while Hawkins is closely ranked 235th nationally, No. 36 in his position, and No. 34 in florida. Based on the high volume of star recruits from Florida, 34th is not a bad position to be in at all for Hawkins since 98% of starting athletes from IMG are filtered and recruited to play in college. Hawkins is already committed to the Florida Gators, and Beasley is committed to University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Beasley will also be facing off against his future teammate, Jonathan Echols (ATH), who is also a Vols commit. This will be the first and last time they play against each other until they reunite for the 2024-2025 season on the same team. Echols is a 4-star recruit, and ranked No.118 nationally, so this is quite the close match up, even though Beasley has both of these players beat on stats.
Miranda Giles, cheer coach and Spanish teacher: “We are beyond excited for the opportunity to cheer on our Mustangs’ first game of the season. We’re thrilled to have Coach Mawae and his leadership, and we are excited to see his team in action.”
Jay Essner, student and former offensive lineman: “This week will be a challenge for the Mustangs. As long as the boys keep their team chemistry intact we have a serious shot at winning this thing.”
National rankings were taken from 247sports’ composite ranking system, found on their website.