As the final seconds ticked off of the scoreboard at Lipscomb Academy, the final score read 35-10. However, instead of it reading that way in favor of the Mustangs as it has so often the last few years, it was flipped around.
The Mustangs opened the season hosting one of the nation’s premier programs in IMG Academy, a perennial powerhouse that annually competes for national titles. Building a program that gets to that level is something new Lipscomb Academy head coach Kevin Mawae hopes to get to during his tenure.
To get there though, taking lumps like that against national powerhouses was bound to happen. How they respond following an out-of-the-norm loss like that is something Mawae will keep a tab on going forward.
“They got all of the best players in the country and they should win games like this,” Mawae said following the loss. “The goal for teams like us is to challenge them and give them our best shot. We knew it was going to be hard and we didn’t shy away from the schedule.
…I was eager about it when I got the job. I’m 0-1 as a head coach right now and that’s not very fun but no one is perfect. There’s no coach who went undefeated his entire career so we’ll learn from it as a team and get back at it.”
Deuce Knight gets his first taste of Mustang football
On a roster already loaded with talent, the Mustangs landed arguably the biggest transfer of the offseason when 2025 four-star quarterback Deuce Knight made the move from Mississippi to Nashville.
That pickup gave the Mustangs their signal-caller of the future and the type of talent to potentially lead them back to a third-straight state title. On Friday night though, it was all about learning and getting reps for Knight.
Taking the field against IMG was the first real game action Knight has experienced since the recent move. He played some against Blackman during Lipscomb Academy’s final jamboree matchup the week before, but it was nothing like going against a defense loaded with five and high four-star talent.
Knight experienced his ups and downs as expected. IMG constantly applied pressure on him throughout the night before five-star defensive lineman David Stone. While they did get to him a few times, Knight was able to avoid much of that pressure and keep plays alive.
Finding his timing and a connection with his receivers will be the biggest thing Knight will need to continue to work on going forward.
One guy he already has a connection with is senior Dillon Lorick. Lorick proved to be the Mustangs’ most consistent pass-catcher against IMG as Knight targeted him several times.
Mustangs’ defense will once again be their key to success
For as many points as they put up last season, it could be argued that Lipscomb Academy’s biggest strength was its defense. It looks to be the same this year.
IMG finished with 35 points, but each of their five touchdowns came on chunk plays. Four-star Texas running back commit Jerrick Gibson provided two of those touchdowns on long runs. Their three other touchdowns came on pass plays resulting from broken coverage.
The Ascenders were able to put up the points, but one thing the Mustangs’ defense did not allow was for them to sustain long drives and keep them on the field on possessions that didn’t result in points.
As good as its secondary and defensive line will be, the Mustangs’ strength defensively lies with their linebackers. Edwin Spillman, a four-star Tennessee commit, was all over the field making plays. His running mate Kris Thompson had an even bigger night racking up three sacks.
“Tonight just showed me that I can play with anybody,” Spillman said. “I was able to do my thing. I know as a team we have things to work on but we hung with them. I’m proud of the way we played.”