Columbus Lions vs. Jersey Flight Preview
The Columbus Lions will be hitting the road once again this Saturday as they head to New Jersey and the CURE Insurance Arena to take on the Jersey Flight (0-2). The Lions are coming off their first win of the season in the home opener against the Orlando Predators while the Flight have started the season with two straight losses, including a 60-25 loss to the Albany Empire last Friday.
For the Lions this week, unlike their previous two matchups, there is actual film from the current year to watch and more is known about the upcoming opponent. The Jersey Flight are led by head coach Terrence Foster who actually joined the team in October of 2019 as they transitioned to the NAL, but once the season was cancelled, Foster remained with the team as they prepared for a return to the gridiron.
Foster has been coaching in arena football since 2009 and his staff is filled with arena football veterans, most notably defensive coordinator Alvin Ray Jackson, a former jack linebacker with over 13 years of arena football experience under his belt.
After nearly two years with no football inside the CURE Insurance Arena, the Flight returned on May 28 and they actually opened the 2021 NAL season with the kickoff game against the Carolina Cobras, a game they ended up losing on the last play when Cobras kicker TC Stevens kicked the game winner through the uprights
The 2021 season has been a tough one for the Flight and following a close loss to the Cobras they made a short trip to the Times Union Center in Albany, New York to take on the Albany Empire. While the game started off close with a 7-7 tie after the first quarter the Empire offense scored 27 points in the second quarter and cruised to a 60-25 victory.
As it stands right now, the Flight sit in last place in the NAL standings. In the two games so far, the Flight offense has struggled. Where the likes of Mason Espinosa and Tommy Grady have already had prolific performances, the quarterback play for the Flight has been inconsistent.
Warren Smith is the starting quarterback for the Flight and in the first game of the season Smith put up good numbers, completing 23 of his 30 pass attempts for 182 yards and three touchdowns. It was against the Empire last week where Smith struggled throughout the contest, only completing 50% of his passes and throwing an interception. The quarterback will be looking to get back on track this Saturday but he will be facing a Lions defense that is tied for first in the NAL in interceptions.
As for the talent surrounding Smith, a true number-one receiver has yet to emerge with no player surpassing 100 yards in a game but Tyron Laughinghouse leads the team with three touchdown receptions.
The rushing attack for the Flight has not provided much in terms of yardage with the team getting -1 total rushing yards so far this season. Despite this, the Flight tend to lean on their running backs during short yardage situations, especially inside the 10 with five total rushing touchdowns so far this season which leads the NAL. Jared Dangerfield seems to be the top running back for the team in those goal-to-go situations, leading the team with three rushing touchdowns.
On the defensive side, the Flight have been struggling to keep opposing offenses in check, allowing 52.5 points per game and only generating one turnover. While they are the second best defense in the NAL in terms of yardage allowed, their inability to get stops in the form of turnovers allows opposing offenses to take advantage of the already short arena football field and score often. The Flight have been able to sack the quarterback three times, good for second in the NAL, and Sean Daniels leads the team which could be an issue for the Lions since they had trouble protecting the quarterback in the season opener.
For the Lions offense, the Jersey Flight defense presents an opportunity to continue the momentum they started the season with and score over 50 for the third game in a row. Espinosa and his receiving core might be making a case for the best in the NAL and recent addition Jarmon Fortson stepped in seamlessly for the injured Antwane Grant in Friday’s win against the Predators.
The lack of rushing game from the Flight should make the job of the Lions defense easier as defensive coordinator Brandon Reed can focus on Warren Smith and his receivers. The Flight turning toward the running backs inside the 10 is something that Reed will have to keep an eye on but with Ulric Jones and Corey Crawford in the middle of that Lions defense, goal-to-go situations on Saturday could be a true battle.
Consistency at the field goal kicker position could be a big factor in Saturday’s game. Ryan Gates was perfect in his debut with 13 total points and the Lions could lean on him more against the Flight as they look to solidify that position for the 2021 season.
With a shortened schedule, every game truly counts as each game could be the difference between success and failure later in the postseason. With the third game of the season a few days away, the Lions look to build off their first win in their home opener and get some momentum for the remainder of the season.
The Lions return to the gridiron this Saturday, on the road against the Jersey Flight. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. EST. The game can be watched live with CTV Beam, at https://www.nationalarenaleague.com/home or on the NAL’s official Youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSzSD8STXiEVPVtUDO9juhA.
ABOUT THE COLUMBUS LIONS
The Columbus Lions are members of the National Arena League (NAL). Founded in 2007, the Columbus Lions are starting their 15th season in 2021. The Lions are a 3x league champion and 13 playoff appearances in their rich history. The Lions play their home games at Hughston Field in the Columbus Civic Center. Lions Season Ticket Memberships are on sale now call (706) 322-3336 or visit columbuslions.com. Follow the Lions on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Lionsfootball/, twitter @columbuslions and instagram.com/Columbuslions.
ABOUT NATIONAL ARENA LEAGUE
The National Arena League was founded in 2016 and hosted its inaugural season in 2017 as the premier league in arena football. The National Arena League will kick off its fifth season in 2021. For more information regarding expansion opportunities or partnerships, contact Commissioner Chris Siegfried at firstname.lastname@example.org For more information about the NAL visit www.nationalarenaleague.com, facebook.com/nationalarenaleauge, twitter.com/NALfootball, Instagram.com/nationalarenaleague.