Keys to the Game: Lions vs. Predators Preview
With the home opener on the horizon, the Columbus Lions are looking to secure their first win of the 2021 NAL season. These are the keys to success for the Lions against the Orlando Predators.
1. Convert Extra Points
One of the biggest stories from last Saturday’s loss against the Albany Empire was the Lions’ struggles on extra point attempts. The Lions only converted three of nine total extra point opportunities, and left 10 points on the field in failed two-point conversions and missed extra point kicks from Jed Solomon. Solomon only had two attempts on the night and the Lions had to lean on two-point conversion attempts to stay close with the Empire after Solomon was having issues kicking. In a five point loss, those 10 points worth of missed extra point opportunities proved to be the difference maker and in Friday’s matchup with the Predators, the Lions will need to convert the extra point attempts. It takes some of the pressure off of the defense and in a high scoring sport like arena football, every point counts.
2. Establish the Run
Arena football is a pass-first sport and that was seen clearly in the season opener with a total of 17 passing touchdowns combined between the two starting quarterbacks. The Lions’ pass attack is dangerous, with former NAL Offensive Player of the Year Mason Espinosa at the helm and surrounded with a number of talented receivers, including recent addition Jarmon Fortson. The Lions will likely remain a pass-first offense for the rest of the season and with the talent they have on offense that is more than justified, however, establishing the run could take some pressure off of Espinosa and his receivers and it could keep opposing defenses guessing. During Saturday’s loss, Tiberias Lampkin only had two rushing attempts for a total of eight yards. The Lions do not need to become a running offense, but establishing a small rushing attack will keep the defense off balance and open up more things for the passing game.
3. Protect the QB
During Saturday’s loss to the Empire, Mason Espinosa was sacked four times and lost a total of 44 yards on those four sacks. In a game where every drive matters, keeping drives alive is crucial and sacks can be drive killers for some offenses. While special teams was arguably the biggest factor in Saturday’s loss, the pressure from the Empire defense was a big difference maker. In such a high scoring game, a few big plays from the defense could have a big impact and the sacks on Espinosa hurt the Lions offense. Keeping the defensive line out of the backfield on Friday could open up more things for an already dangerous Lions offense as Mason Espinosa is coming off a record-setting performance in the season opener.
4. Attack the (opposing) QB
While Albany was able to put pressure on Espinosa throughout the game, Empire quarterback Tommy Grady had a clean pocket nearly all night and the Lions defense was never able to sack the opposing quarterback. The Lions did not have an answer for Grady and his number-one receiver Darius Prince and more pressure on Grady could have forced more mistakes and thrown off the quarterbacks rhythm. If the Lions can apply pressure on Friday, presumed starter Rakeem Cato could have a difficult time getting in rhythm against the Lions and a few sacks could be the difference between a win and a loss for Columbus.
5. Start Fast
Every drive in an arena football game counts. With the shorter field, teams can score a lot of points very fast, as seen in Saturday’s matchup between the Lions and the Empire which saw 29 total points scored in the last minute and 30 seconds. Starting the scoring early can give a team momentum that lasts throughout the game and the points scored early on can be enough to separate the two teams. If the Lions can get the offense going early, and get Espinosa in rhythm with his talented receiving core early then the star quarterback could have another big performance. If the offense comes out of the gate clicking on all cylinders then that takes some pressure off the defense as they could have a nice lead early on. Overall, getting the momentum early can have a big impact later on in the contest.
There is not much known about this Predators team, with a completely new staff and refurbished roster, but if the Lions are able to accomplish all of this, then they will have a good chance to secure their first win of the year.
The home opener against the Orlando Predators is set to kick off on June 4 at 7 p.m. EST inside the Columbus Civic Center. 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.