Friday night saw the first regular-season football action as the Unity Christian Lions took their road talents down to McDonough and shut out New Creation Christian Academy 38-0. It was head coach Nick Jones’ first career victory as head coach.
“To be able to take a team on the road for your season opener ... I just could not be more proud of our guys and heart they showed and the determination that they showed,” Jones said in a phone interview. “The coaching staff just coached them up incredibly and it was awesome to watch. For four quarters, these young men gave everything they had. They wanted this game.”
Due to the seniors being quarantined, Jones and his staff took just 11 players to McDonough. Playing 8-man football, Jones could make very few substitutions.
“Considering the situation, most of them could not come out of the game at all,” Jones said. “They dug deep. We wanted to show we had the heart and we made it about that.”
UC started out strong, going down the field and scoring on its first possession and never looked back.
Sophomore Eli Thompson got the start under center for Unity Christian and quickly made a great impression, accounting for all but one of the Lions’ scores. Passing-wise, he went 11-for-14 passing for 137 yards and a touchdown, while his ground attack featured 11 rushes for 146 yards and four TDs.
“He stepped up with great poise, led our offense tonight,” Jones said. “Didn’t flinch when his number was called. I’m really, really thankful Eli put that weight on his shoulders and led our team forward.”
John Nance was Thompson’s top target with four catches for 77 yards and the one snag for six. Nance also notched six rushes for 48 yards.
“Our juniors, I challenged several of them prior to the game and just asked them to step up and be leaders on the field ... and they really did,” Jones said. “I couldn’t ask for more than what they gave me.”
Defensively, Bailey Mohler led the way with 17 total tackles. The Lion defense surrendered just 22 total yards to New Creation.
“They stood up, stood tall (and) did not let them in the end zone,” Jones said. “Our defensive coaches did a tremendous job prepping our defense for the game.”
Jones said he will get his seniors back later this week, just in time for the home opener. Unity Christian decided to move up its senior night festivities to this Friday.
Unity Christian returns to action this Friday when they welcome Harvester to the new home confines of Grizzard Park. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
“We’re going to go after it this week,” Jones said. “We’re not taking our foot off the gas pedal.”