It’s been three years since Carlos Acosta stood behind the center of a football offensive line.

That was when he was in middle school.

Now a junior at Garden City High School, the 5-foot-9, 170-pound junior earned the starting nod as the new signal caller for the Buffaloes during summer camps and practices, and has been the guiding force the last two weeks as he and his teammates prepare for the Aug. 31 season road opener at powerhouse Derby.

Friday night, the Buffs got their first taste of near game-like conditions when they capped off a 3 hour, 45 minute football festival called Football Friday Night in Garden City at Buffalo Stadium.

Acosta performed well in the scripted-scrimmage outing as he and a youthful offensive line took on a defense that has four starters returning along with some new faces and that, as always, is ahead of the offense this early in the season.

“We’re really young as a team — that’s the first thing,” Acosta said after the completion of the scrimmage. “Our line is going to have to communicate better on the offensive and defensive side.”

He was pleased with his first go under the lights.

“I think I read my keys pretty good today and made some all right throws,” Acosta said.

A year after he earned first team all-Western Athletic Conference honors as a cornerback with six interceptions, Acosta said the transition to playing both ways was going well thus far.

“I’m excited to play DB. I did pretty good last year on it, and coach wants to throw me back there some times,” Acosta said. “Quarterback’s a new position, and I’m excited for the challenge. It’s almost the same as basketball playing both defense and offense.”

Acosta said there a transition time to adjust to returning to the offensive side of the ball.

“It feels good. It took me a while to get used to it again,” Acosta said. “We’ll be ready for Derby. Got a few players banged up some, but we’re excited for the season.”

Head coach Brian Hill, entering his ninth season at the program’s helm (53-27), was pleased with the entire evening that saw elementary school, middle school, freshmen, junior varsity and varsity players all on the field at some point during the 5 p.m. to 8:45 extravaganza.

“It was super exciting to watch the group that showed up, and watched kids early and stayed throughout to watch the varsity kids,” Hill said. “The commitment that the community has toward football, from down to the middle school and to the YMCA, I’m just excited for the entire program.”

Hill, who has now had the reins of the entire football program, from early ages to high school, is seeing the fruits of his work, where the younger teams are running the same system as his high school Buffs.

“It’s become a big thing here when we run 250 kids out of the tunnel,” Hill said. “The kids who are now in ninth grade were part of the program that we started five years ago, and that’s why we have one of the largest ninth grade classes out for football.”

Hill said he had the usual observations about the scrimmage as it was the first time for many players to play in front of a crowd that was estimated at about 3,000 fans.

“Naturally, you saw good and bad — it’s what you see with youth,” Hill said. “You saw that we would have a great series, and then turn around and not have a great series. It kind of snowballs on itself. When the confidence is high we can build on it, but when we miss an assignment that it really hurts our kids’ confidence, and we let it affect the next play.

“Those are things we’ve got to have them grow up and avoid. You can’t pout about one play. When you’re trying to run 60 to 65 plays in a game, one play can’t make or break you but if you let it continue to affect you that’s when you have problems.”

Hill liked what he saw from some of his veterans, who have plenty of experience.

“Those guys that have played, those guys you can tell that they’ve played varsity football,” Hill said. “They’re comfortable under the lights, with their assignment, with playing and playing without fear. Our younger kids are still learning and not getting down on themselves.”

With the defense ahead of offense, Hill also liked some of what he saw on that side of the ball.

“They make plays and we’ve got a good group of kids that run around and make plays,” Hill said. “They’re gonna make it difficult for offenses to move the ball consistently against them. I’m very excited about the prospects of where they are. They have more returning players from varsity experience than we have on offense. We’re growing up quickly, and what I can say is that the kids come to practice every day and work hard.”

His view of his new quarterback was pretty upbeat.

“I thought he did good,” Hill said. “He’s a good player. He manages the game well. He makes good reads. He’s not gonna put us in bad situations. He doesn’t take a lot of chances with the football, and that’s important for him to continue to get more reps and the more games he’s going to play, the better we’re gonna be.”

Holcomb transfer Reece Morss (6-2, 225-pound sr. RB/LB) also made an impression on his first series of offense — four carries, 58 yards, breaking tackles in his first offensive series.

“He’s a different type of back,” Hill said. “He’s gonna run through tackles. He’s gonna make plays. He’ll make it tough on defense to make tackles. We don’t have to block perfectly and he can wear down a defense — the more opportunities it will provide for others.”

And with only seven days until the real whistle blows and the Buffs hit the road to take on perennial 6A powerhouse Derby, Hill knows what his team faces next Friday.

“We’ve got a young offensive line, and some of them were playing eighth grade or freshman football a year ago, and now we’re asking them to go up against one of the best teams in Kansas,” Hill said. “We’re excited about it, and no matter whether we win or lose, we’re gonna learn from it. We’re in it for the long run with this group.”