COLUMBUS, GA, December 8 -- In quest of their third straight league championship and fourth since 2010, the Columbus Lions host the Jacksonville Sharks on Friday, March 17 as a marquee home opener to kick off an intriguing and appealing 12-game National Arena League schedule.
The brand-new N.A.L. is considered a “Tier 1” professional indoor football league within the industry, establishing a national footprint while elevating the level of play to be among the highest in the sport. Member cities include expansion markets such as Monterrey, Mexico, and established franchises from other leagues.
Opening Night on St. Patrick’s Day evening features the opposing Jacksonville Sharks, 2011 Arena Football League champions who played the past seven years in the AFL. The Sharks are quarterbacked by 2012 MVP Tommy Grady and have been the home of former Lions star wide receiver London Crawford from 2013-16.
The Lions’ second home opponent on April 2 is the Albany-based rival Georgia Firebirds. Playing for them in 2017 are former Lions John Harris (WR), Aaron Wheeler (OL) and Larry Edwards (LB). The Firebirds, like the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks who won’t play in Columbus this season, played with the Lions in the now-defunct American Indoor Football (AIF) last season. The Steelhawks, who host the Lions in Allentown PA in Week 4, also played together for four seasons in the PIFL (Professional Indoor Football League) from 2012-15.
Next up at the Columbus Civic Center on April 22 after a bye week is the High Country Grizzlies, a new franchise based in Boone, NC. coached by former Lions defensive coordinator Josh Resignalo. The Grizzlies will play out of the Holmes Center on the campus of Appalachian State University.
On May 6, the Lions host the Monterrey Steel, the first professional football franchise in the history of the 4,000,000-person city. The NAL is proud to include the first Mexican team ahead of either the NFL or AFL. Nearby Tampico hosted indoor football exhibitions last year. The Steel will play in a modern 17,000-seat arena.
After a second bye week, the expansion Dayton Wolfpack visits Columbus. While it’s been a decade since Dayton last had pro indoor football, the city hosts one of minor-league baseball’s most successful franchises with a long string of consecutive sellouts, and is a desirous, populous Midwestern market for the NAL.
The Lions’ last regular-season home game on June 3 features the Corpus Christi Rage, another new franchise. The city, however, has a strong history of fielding competitive teams, including one in the Southern Indoor Football League (SIFL) that the Lions played in back in 2010-11.
NAL playoffs will feature semifinals hosted by the #1 and #2-seeded regular season teams on the weekend of June 24, and following a week off, the championship game on Saturday, July 8.
Lions season tickets and flex-plans, as well as group outings, are available by calling the Lions main office at Golden Park at 706-322-3336 and the Lions’ Civic Center sales office at 706-221-6478.
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