Lions head to Jacksonville to take on the Sharks: Week 8 Preview
The Columbus Lions will be returning to football after 21 days off when they travel to Jacksonville to take on the defending NAL champion Sharks. The Sharks will look a little different compared to their first matchup in Columbus, with Danny Southwick now the starting quarterback.
This will be the second time that the Sharks and Lions have met this season and the Lions won the first matchup 56-32 in Columbus. In that game the Sharks’ quarterbacks struggled against the Lions defense, turning the ball over four times. The combined efforts of Breck Ruddick, who was benched in the first half, and Connor Kaegl were not enough and the Sharks went back to the drawing board at quarterback.
The Sharks eventually signed Danny Southwick, a quarterback previously with the Jersey Flight. Since signing Southwick the Sharks have gone 2-1, after starting the season 0-2.
A week after the Sharks lost to Columbus, Southwick led the Sharks to a 62-58 upset win over the first-place Albany Empire, putting the Empire in a tie with the Lions.
The Sharks have played twice since they were in Columbus, losing to the Orlando Predators 50-41 and defeating the Carolina Cobras 54-52 on a game winning throw from Danny Southwick to Devin Wilson with 21 seconds remaining.
Since that loss in Columbus, the Sharks have changed dramatically with a number of players returning from injury and some new additions as well. Southwick has been the biggest signing but the Sharks also brought back Jarmon Fortson, who was previously with the Lions this season. Fortson’s impact, like Southwick’s, was immediate as the veteran receiver found the end zone three times against the Cobras in his first game with the team.
The Sharks offense has found rhythm since Southwick joined the team, and the quarterback has thrown five touchdowns in each of his three games. Southwick is surrounded with a talented receiving group that features Devin Wilson, who leads the team in receptions, yards, and touchdowns and Jordan Williams along with Fortson. Williams has 376 yards and six touchdowns on 28 receptions, all second on the team. Wilson has had a receiving touchdown in every game since the 2018 NAL season.
The Sharks have still struggled with turning the ball over, with Southwick throwing five interceptions in his three games, back-to-back two interception games in the last two weeks. Southwick will be facing the best defense in the league in terms of forcing turnovers when the Lions come to Jacksonville and while the talented receivers of the Sharks could be an issue, Southwick’s tendency to turn the ball over could be exploited by the Lions defense.
On the defensive side the Sharks have struggled and they are near the bottom of the league in every category. They allow 53.6 points per game and give up 272.6 yards per game, both fifth in the NAL. They also have the worst rushing defense in the NAL, giving up 32.2 yards per game and while the Lions have released fullback Tiberias Lampkin, they could use Corey Crawford in order to exploit the poor rushing defense of the Sharks.
One of the top players on the Sharks defense is defensive back Kenny Veal, the Sharks lockdown corner. Veal leads the league in interceptions with six on the season and he is coming off back-to-back games with two interceptions. With the Lions having one of the best receiving corps in the league, the way the Sharks use their lockdown cornerback could have a big impact on Saturday’s game.
This week the Lions brought back kicker Ryan Gates from IR and it seems like the Lions will have their kicker for the first time since their game against the Sharks in June. Special teams has been a big part of the Lions season and with Gates healthy the Lions can rely on him for extra points and in kickoffs.
This Saturday the Lions will head to Jacksonville with a lot on the line. That Sharks have already lost three games and they need to keep winning in order to stay ahead of the Flight and Cobras and stay in the playoff hunt.
As for the Lions, they are currently in a tie for first-place with the Albany Empire and a win helps them keep pace with the Empire ahead of their rematch on July 24. The Lions will also be looking to make history as they have never won in Jacksonville and a win on Saturday would break that streak and also secure a playoff spot for the Lions.
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.