Freshman signal caller John Nance had 179 total yards of offense, running for two touchdowns while throwing for another, as Unity Christian defeated Harvester Christian 32-23 at Grizzard Park.
The Hawks were held scoreless for most of the second half while Unity managed two more touchdowns and build on its 20-17 lead at the break.
The Lions’ regular season opener had them go toe-to-two with the visiting GICAA squad in the eight-man contest until a 58-yard drive late in the fourth quarter ended with Nance hitting Levi Lodge on a 9-yard strike under coverage in the end zone.
An attempt at a two-point conversion pass went incomplete, but Unity held a 32-17 lead with 1:15 left to play. The Hawks pieced together a quick series to move down the field and score in the waning seconds of the game, but it wasn’t enough to make up their deficit.
“I felt like we needed to get a little more physical … in the second half, and I think they did that,” Unity head coach Mark Ackerman said. “They responded, and some guys that were banged up a little at halftime jumped right back in and really made a big difference for us.”
Unity (1-0) went into halftime ahead by three after a pair of scores in the second quarter. Nance ran around to the left from a yard out to put the Lions in the lead 12-9, and Caleb Thompson picked off a Harvester pass and returned it 42 yards for a touchdown with 3:49 left in the half.
The ensuing two-point pass from Nance to Eli Wells gave Unity a 20-9 advantage it would maintain for the rest of the game.
Harvester used a 31-yard pass on third-and-8 to get them down to the two on the next drive and then scored on a 2-yard run with 1:11 to go.
“It was a three-point game at halftime, and our kids were hanging their heads a little bit, and that made me disappointed because we were winning,” Ackerman said. “I don’t know if they expected us to be up by 21 like we were some times last year, but I told them that we were doing things right.”
Unity forced its opponent to either turn the ball over on downs or punt on its first four drives of the second half. Nance took a leading role on the Lions’ possessions, scoring in a 3-yard run in the third quarter, while Caleb Thompson and Travis Williams continued to make an impact in the running game.
Williams broke free on a 52-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, while Thompson led the ground game with five carries for 97 yards.
“I’m very excited overall. I think we’ve got a lot to work on just like every team does after its first game, but I’m really excited,” Ackerman said.
Unity is on the road next Friday as they travel to McDonough to take on New Creation Christian.