Lions roar in 65-32 victory over the Flight
In the regular season finale, the Columbus Lions ended the Jersey Flight’s hopes of a playoff run with a dominant 65-32 victory. The Lions outscored the Flight 45-12 in the second and third quarters.
Despite the lopsided final score, the game was close during the opening quarter with the Flight scoring an opening drive touchdown to take a 7-0 lead when Warren Smith found Jared Dangerfield wide open.
The Lions responded quickly with a four play drive that ended with an Antwane Grant receiving touchdown, every play of the drive featured a catch by Antwane Grant. The Lions still trailed following the touchdown due a missed extra point attempt by Craig Camay.
Both teams exchanged touchdown drives later in the quarter and the first quarter ended with the Flight holding a 14-13 lead.
With the playoffs on the line, the Flight seemed poised to gain the momentum in the contest when Mason Espinosa was sacked on back-to-back plays and fumbled the ball on the second sack, giving Jersey the ball inside Columbus territory.
The vaunted Lions defense stepped up and came up with a key defensive stop, forcing a turnover on downs and giving the ball back to Espinosa and the offense. They did not waste the opportunity and methodically marched down the field, finishing the drive with a one yard Corey Crawfird rushing touchdown to take the lead for the first time, a lead they would not relinquish again.
The Lions scored 15 straight points, including a Rodney Hall pick-six and deuce from Craig Camay, to go into the locker room with 35-20. Hall’s interception was one of two by the Lions in the quarter, the first being a diving catch by Marvin Ross. This was Ross’s seventh of the season.
The Lions had an opportunity to extend their lead late in the second, but an Antwane Grant fumble on a lateral led to an immediate Flight recovery and score, making it 35-20 with under a minute to go.
The second half saw the Lions continue to dominate with three touchdowns from three different players and another deuce from Camay. Espinosa found Grant in the end zone for the third time tonight, tossed it to Corey Crawford for the two yard score and snuck it in himself to make it 58-26
With the win all but official, the Lions made the change at quarterback, replacing Espinosa with Chase Fourcade in the first Lions drive of the fourth quarter.. Both teams found the end zone once more in the fourth quarter, with Fourcade finding Sam Dobbs for the final touchdown of the game.
Mason Espinosa finished the game with 17 completions on 24 attempts for 197 and five touchdowns and a rushing touchdown as well. His favorite target of the night was Antwane who went for over 100 for the second straight game with 101 yards on eight receptions and three touchdowns.
Lonnie Outlaw did not find the end zone for only the second time in eight games but he made a number of clutch catches for first downs, finishing with eight catches for 58 yards. Sam Dobbs and Desmond Reece each stepped up to fill in for Romond Deloatch with the receivers combining for 66 yards on five catches and one score. Corey Crawford has been arguably the most efficient receiver in the NAL this season, with two catches for touchdowns tonight he has now caught six passes this season, all for touchdowns.
While the Flight could not find an answer for the Lions receivers, they were able to get after the quarterback, sacking Espinosa and Fourcade a combined five times tonight. Sean Daniels led the way with three, giving him the most in the NAL this season with 6.5.
One the defensive side the Lions overcame a slow start to hold the Flight to just 22 points in the last three quarters and forced two turnovers. They did have as much success as the Flight did at sacking the quarterback, with only one sack of quarterback Warren Smith.
Smith completed 21 passes on 40 attempts for 200 yards and three touchdowns and two interceptions. All three of Smith’s touchdowns went to Jared Dangerfield who finished with seven catches for 85 yards along with the three scores.
The Lions defense was able to hold the Flight offense in the final three quarters due to the three turnovers and a number of great stops on third and fourth down. The Flight were one for eight on third down conversions and only one for six on fourth down conversions, leading to a number of drives stalling.
In the regular season finale, the Jersey Flight opened the game with momentum as they fought for the final playoff spot and took a one point lead at the end of the third quarter. The Lions, with their playoff spot already secured, responded quickly and dominated the remainder of the game, outsourcing the flight 52-18 in the final three quarters.
Next week will be the beginning of the 2021 NAL playoffs and the Lions will be hosting the Orlando Predators in round one. Kickoff for the regular season finale is set for 7 p.m EST on August 7 and tickets are on sale here. 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.