More like HalloWin for the Unity Christian Lions as they clinched Region 1-Class AA and a first-round bye in the GAPPS state playoffs for the second consecutive year after a 42-0 shutout of the Lanier Christian Lightning Friday at Grizzard Park.
It’s Unity’s second consecutive shutout as well, as the Lions improve their record to 9-0.
“We are thrilled to be able to win in this very physical and tough region,” Lions head coach Nick Jones said. “Our guys, we tasked them to play a physical, hard-nosed game and they did an outstanding job on both sides of the ball tonight.”
Unity Christian started strong, scoring on its first three offensive possessions.
Senior quarterback Drew King barreled his way across the goal line from 1 yard out to open the scoring. A 2-point conversion quickly made it 8-0 Lions with less than five minutes gone in the first quarter. King would finished the night with 107 rushing yards.
The theme of two’s would continue running on a cold night in Rome, as Caleb Thompson, who wears the No. 2 jersey, scored two rushing touchdowns in the offense effort.
His first score would be part of the 3-for-3 offensive start for the Lions, who have been averaging over 45 points per game.
“What stands out to me is our seniors,” Jones said. “They stepped up tonight and we were led by an incredible group of athletes that were on the field.”
King threw 10-for-15 for 136 yards with one touchdown. His TD went to Samuel Mumpower to stretch the lead to 24-0.
Up 30-0 at halftime, a running clock would be instituted the rest of the way. UC would find the end zone on two more occasions.
Eli Thompson would reach the end zone from 19 yards out and John Nance, taking over under center after King’s departure, provided the game’s final points on a 12-yard pass to Levi Lodge in the fourth quarter.
Defensively, the Lions stifled the Lightning throughout the evening. Lanier Christian only crossed midfield on two separate occasions.
Caleb Thompson and Jessie Smith recorded 11 tackles, while Bailey Mohler notched 10.
“I just really saw our guys step up and play a physical, hard-nosed football game, and in the past, that has always been something that has plagued us,” Jones said. “Tonight, I saw our guys rise to the challenge.”
The victory assures Unity Christian a first-round bye and a second-round playoff game at Grizzard Park, most likely to be played on Friday, Nov. 20.
“Anytime you can do that on your homefield is always good in front of your home crowd,” Jones said. “This means a lot for us. It gives us a chance to A., get healthy and then B., size up how the rest of our region play is so we have that extra week of prep for who we think we’re going to play next.”
Jones, in his first season as head coach, has guided Unity back to the playoffs as region champions.
“I’m blessed to be able to walk into a really good situation,” Jones said. “This football team was poised and ready to make a championship run. Not every coach gets to walk into that. I’m very grateful and blessed to be able to do that and to be able to coach with some outstanding coaches.”
Jones said he told his team the goal is far from reached.
“Our mission is bigger than just being region champs,” Jones said. “We have our eyes set on the championship. For us ... we feel like this is a stepping stone toward a bigger vision.”
The Lions have wrapped up their regular season, going 19-0 in the previous two years.