The Lions start their 2018 season in earnest Friday night with another freshman at the helm as they look to find consistency early and return to the postseason.

Unity Christian is hosting fellow GICAA school Harvester Christian at Grizzard Park on Friday at 7:30 p.m.

John Nance took his first snaps behind center against competition last week when the Lions traveled to face Nathanael Greene Academy in a scrimmage. The freshman gave head coach Mark Ackerman reason to be excited for their season opener.

“All we wanted him to do was control the ball,” Ackerman said. “He did more than that. He made some incredible throws.”

Nance is in at quarterback for sophomore Drew King, who tore his labrum about two months ago and had surgery to repair it, forcing him to sit out for the entire season.

Ackerman said he was concerned at first as to how Nance would fare in the scrimmage, but was encouraged by what he saw on the field. He also realizes his first actual test will come against the Eagles this week.

“I was worried about that, but Saturday he did really well,” Ackerman said. “A scrimmage is a scrimmage, and we’ve been playing that up as a glorified practice all along, so Friday night will really tell us exactly where he is.”

In addition to King, Ackerman will also see how his team fares against Harvester, a team they beat 22-16 last year, with the loss of their star offensive players. Janson Slaughter and Colin Mathis were lost to graduation, and Terry Curry attends Coosa High School. But Ackerman feels it will allow some of his other players to come into the spotlight with those players gone.

“We’re looking forward to Friday night,” Ackerman said. “We’ve got quite a few guys that really want the ball. We’re going to have to spread it around a little bit, because they were hungry last year, but they didn’t get it.”

Ackerman liked what he saw from his team in the scrimmage, but there were some missed opportunities that he would like to see corrected. The Lions made their way to the end zone twice against the Patriots, but the Unity receivers dropped three passes in the end zone that would’ve been touchdowns.

Ackerman was pleased with the defensive efforts of his team as they forced and recovered three fumbles.

“That’s going to help if we can do that,” Ackerman said. “That will obviously keep the ball out of their hands. We thought our line would look good, because we didn’t lose anybody there, and everybody is bigger, faster and stronger.”