Clearwater Central Catholic football coach John Davis had a hard time finding opponents to fill out his schedule.
East Lake and Palm Harbor University, which had played the Marauders the past two seasons, both declined to resume the series. Springstead initially agreed to play before deciding against it, Davis said.
So to fill the one remaining date left, Davis did something no other bay area program was willing to do: schedule a game against IMG Academy in Bradenton.
Tonight, CCC (7-1, 4-0) travels to play IMG (7-1), a private athletic training institute that started a high school football program this season.
"I was just looking for good teams to play," Davis said. "I don't know if this was a good idea or not because IMG is pretty dang good. I'll know a lot more after the game."
The Marauders, a team with state title aspirations, will have one of their best tests of the season to gear up for the playoffs. The Ascenders, who are playing as an independent, have put together a team with players other teams can only dream about.
Bo Scarbrough, a five-star recruit who has committed to Alabama, transferred to IMG this summer and is the team's leading rusher with 1,118 yards and 16 touchdowns. Michael O'Connor, the Canadian-born quarterback and Penn State recruit, has thrown for 1,510 yards and 15 touchdowns for the Ascenders.
IMG has already played West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman and Jacksonville Trinity Christian, two Class 3A teams CCC could eventually see in the playoffs.
Much like the Marauders, IMG had to scour the state to find opponents. Tonight's game is the Ascenders' only one against a team located within a 100-mile radius of the Bradenton campus.
The Marauders enter the game dealing with injuries to skill players. Running back Diquan Walker (hip flexor) and receiver CJ Cotman (turf toe) have been limited in practice and are listed as probable.
"We're a little beat up right now, but so is every team at this stage" Davis said. "We're just hoping to get through the game without any injuries."
The series against IMG is a two-year contract with CCC hosting next year's game. But Davis said this could be the only year the game is played depending how things go tonight.
"We'll evaluate it at the end of the year," Davis said. "If we get blown out, this could end up being a one-year contract."
Bob Putnam can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @BobbyHomeTeam.