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SPRINGFIELD — The city of Springfield was buzzing throughout Saturday with defending high school national champion IMG Academy in town to face Springfield Central.

The private school from Bradenton, Fla., which has 32 FBS recruits and eight Under Armour All-Americans on the roster, pulled away from Central for a 49-0 victory, but the Golden Eagles flashed their potential with a couple of impressive plays.

Central senior quarterback William “Pop” Watson, who holds several Division 1 offers, was able to scramble around the IMG defense and ad-lib to manufacture first downs, including a 36-yard completion to Tariq Thomas in the fourth quarter.

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“It was a great learning experience,” Watson said. “It was fun playing against athletes that are all around more athletic than us, and they made us fight for everything.”

Ranked second in the nation according to MaxPreps, IMG controlled the point of attack with 5-star lineman and Alabama commit Tyler Booker setting the edge. Florida State-bound quarterback A.J. Duffy impressed during the first half and Penn State commit Kaytron Allen rumbled for three touchdowns to help open a 35-0 halftime lead. In the second half, sophomore stud Stacey Gage took the baton and burst for a 45-yard touchdown.

For Springfield Central coach Valdamar Brower, the final score did not necessarily reflect the performance of his players, and the character they showed while facing the IMG juggernaut.

“It was really exciting to have IMG come to Springfield,” Brower said. “I’m hoping all good things come from this. Obviously we didn’t get the outcome we wanted, but it was a great event for the city of Springfield and our team.

“For the 2021 season, when we’re still trying to find our identity, it’s great the way the kids responded to adversity. No stupid penalties or throwing punches, or anything like that. I’m very happy with how they fought. No whining, no pointing fingers, just bringing it.”

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