On Saturday, May 9th two Top 10 high school lacrosse programs faced off in what was the inaugural “Crossover Clash” featuring the Hill Academy from Toronto, Canada and IMG Academy from Bradenton, FL. The Hill Academy came in ranked #5th in the high school lacrosse rankings, while IMG boasted a #7 ranking. The game featured a total of 35 Division 1 recruits and what would be a total of 41 goals as the Hill Academy edged IMG by a score of 21-20.
The Hill Academy, coached by one of the game’s all-time greats Brodie Merrill, is in its ninth year and has already established as a factory of top college lacrosse products. The Hill Academy teaches very much of a Canadian box-style offense that has proved to be so effective at the International level. Merrill, a Canadian himself, has seen first-hand the rewards of the box style of lacrosse that Team Canada has used to top the US in two out of the last three World Championships.
Similarly, the IMG Academy uses a box intensive style of play that is very much up-tempo. Led by Head Coach Bill Shatz, one of the all-time leading goal scorers at Ithaca College, IMG Academy is only in its third year as a lacrosse program. Already, IMG has become a similar type of division 1 factory that the Hill Academy has developed into over the last few years.
Both the Hill Academy and IMG Academy are uniquely structured in that the typical school day is divided equally between academics and sport training. While they both have their differences, this degree of specialization has already shown its advantages where both of these schools are producing upwards of 70% of its graduates to the Division 1 collegiate lacrosse level. Both prep schools tend to attract the some of the most talented lacrosse student-athletes in North America, but perhaps more importantly, the most dedicated lacrosse student-athletes.
The 21-20 score this past Saturday was very indicative of the styles both programs play … as it seemed whoever had the ball last would win the game. However, this up-tempo, player centric, motion offense both the Hill and IMG implemented is a growing trend at the collegiate level as well. The average goals scored by the eight quarterfinal advancing teams in the NCAA Division 1 men’s lacrosse tournament this weekend were 16 gpg. Comparatively, in the last 5 years the average goals per game of the 8 teams that advanced to the quarterfinals were as follows: 12.88 gpg (2014), 13.75 gpg (2013), 13.25 gpg (2012), 12.62 gpg (2011) and 12.25 gpg (2010). With the introduction of the shot clock and tweaked the substitution rules, the college games is trending to a higher scoring, “up and down” tempo that aligns closely with both the Hill and IMG’s style of play.
This past Saturday was the start of what promises to become one of the best rivalries in high school lacrosse.