Lions score 67 in first ever win in Jacksonville
Tonight the Columbus Lions met the Jacksonville Sharks for the second time this season and the Lions came away with the 67-35 victory. The Lions were dominant in the first half, forcing five turnovers and scoring 39 points which the Sharks could not overcome.
The Lions headed to The Tank with a four game win streak and looking for their first ever win in Jacksonville while the Sharks were hoping to stay in playoff contention.
The Lions defense, which has been one of the best units in the NAL this season, had an immediate impact when Lenroy Neysmith picked up a fumbled snap and took it 43 yards to the end zone to put the Lions up six. This was the first of five first half turnovers by the Sharks offense and they finished the game with seven total turnovers.
The Sharks responded quickly with a touchdown to Jaylin Rima and then forced a turnover on the first Lions drive when Antwane Grant fumbled the ball when he tried to extend it over the goal line.
The Lions defense scored more points when pressure from Kevin Washington and Kewan Alfred forced an errant throw from Southwick which led to an intentional grounding call in the end zone and a safety, giving the Lions the lead.
On the ensuing drive, the Lions offense finally got some points on the board when Espinosa found Antwane Grant on a deep throw to make it 15-7 late in the first quarter.
Danny Southwick went down with an apparent rib injury following a Kewan Alfred sack that resulted in a fumble which was recovered by Alfred, the second turnover of the night for the Sharks. Connor Kaegi replaced Southwick on the following drive and the turnover issues continued for the Sharks.
Following Southwick’s injury the Sharks were outscored 24-7 in the second quarter with three more turnovers, including a interception from Droell Greene which was returned for a touchdown. The offense and defense were clicking on all cylinders in the first half and went into halftime with a 39-15 lead when kicker Tristan Reynolds nailed a kick from midfield on the final play.
Reynolds was brought in this week to play in place of injured kicker Ryan Gates and while Reynolds had issues with extra points against the Sharks, he converted two deuces on kickoffs and the field goal at the end of the half.
The scoring in the second half was much more even, with Kaegi starting to find his groove as the Sharks scored 21 but the Sharks had no answer for the Lions offense which scored 28.
Mason Espinosa once again found success all over the field, throwing for seven touchdown passes, his third consecutive game with over six touchdowns. Romond Deloatch, Desmond Reece and Corey Crawford all found the end zone twice. Crawfords NAL Offensive Player of the Week performance against the Cobras in June appears to not be a fluke with the Lions clearly featuring the fullback in the passing game as a legitimate option.
While the offense was once again dominant, the story of this game was the performance from the defense, which has not allowed an offense to score over 40 since May. The Lions entered the game with a +8 turnover differential and they now have a +14 differential following this seven turnover performance.
The turnovers came all over the field with four fumble recoveries and three interceptions. The Lions got the stops when they needed them with a number of the turnovers coming inside the red zone and halting the Sharks’ momentum.
The Lions came back from a three week break and picked up right where they left off with yet another dominant performance on both sides of the ball. Espinosa and the offense have been on fire since the season opener and they are showing no signs of slowing down while the defense has quickly become the best in the NAL.
The Albany Empire defeated the Jersey Flight tonight to get to 5-1 which means next week’s matchup on July 24 with the Lions will be for first place in the NAL. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m EST 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.