SEYMOUR — Zak Acuff took the field Tuesday night and wasted little time showcasing why he is the newly-minted starting quarterback for The King’s Academy.
The junior signal caller fired a strike to sophomore wide receiver Nakelin McAfee for 22 yards on the opening play of a scrimmage against Cherokee.
His next two attempts were also on the money, helping the Lions cruise into the red zone before settling for a short field goal.
“He’s just doing a good job right now of operating the offense,” The King’s Academy coach Jonathan Sellers told The Daily Times. “He’s throwing the ball really well and picking up on a lot of the reads we do. He’s come in and worked really hard to take the reins of the offense.”
Acuff beat out junior Nathan Hoffman and freshman Garrett Weekly to earn the starting gig after spending the past two years as a backup at two schools.
He played in six games as a freshman at Hardin Valley, completing 33 of his 60 attempts (55%) for 317 yards and three touchdowns, and 11 games at Grace Christian last season in which he logged 204 yards and a touchdown on 31 attempts.
Now, he has an offense to call his own despite being with the team for a little over a month.
“I came here and they accepted me and brought me in as family,” Acuff said. “I really like it here. I feel like it’s a good fit for me, and I like Coach Sellers a lot. He’s like a kid, so he kind of understands me. He’s really smart and he has really helped me develop.”
Don’t let Acuff’s lack of starting experience be a distraction from the fact that he has been a known commodity for a while.
The Hardin Valley student section once chanted for Acuff to take over under center as the Hawks clung to their playoff hopes during a 42-3 drubbing by Region 1-6A foe Bearden in 2017 — by the time they got their wish, it was far too late.
That alone is a testament to the arm talent he possesses, but to grasp an offense as quick as he has also displayed advanced maturity.
It helped to befriend somebody who knows the system inside and out as well, and Hoffman was willing to share the things he has learned from Sellers over the years — Sellers was The King’s Academy’s middle school coach when Matt Lowe, now at Powell, led the varsity team.
“Nathan is a kid who has grown up here,” Sellers said. “He knows it all — anything you could throw at him in my offense, Nathan Hoffman has a pretty good idea of what’s going on.
“They’re in the same grade and them being able to hang out and encourage one another and learn from each other has been phenomenal.”
Acuff is tasked with replacing Drew Blair, who completed 105 of his 187 pass attempts for 1,286 yards and six touchdowns while also rushing for 781 yards and 11 scores in his lone season as The King’s Academy’s starting quarterback last year.
Blair led an offensive renaissance during the second half of the season that coincided with Sellers being named the interim coach. The Lions went from averaging 15.2 points per game during the first half of the 2018 season under then-head coach Les Greer to 24.2 in their final five games with Sellers at the helm.
The Lions are aiming to have one of the most dynamic offenses in Division II-A, and if they accomplish that, Acuff will be at the root of it all.
“I don’t feel like there is a lot of pressure for me because I know if I come in and do what I can do, I know that I can be great,” Acuff said. “I just want to be the best player I can be.”
“The quarterback is the guy who touches the ball every single play, so having the right trigger guy definitely helps you out,” Sellers added. “We’re obviously blessed and excited to have him here and we think that some of the stuff he can do will really help us offensively.”