Lions vs. Jacksonville Sharks Preview
This Saturday the Lions will be returning home to take on the Jacksonville Sharks (0-1) and are looking to extend their win streak to three straight victories. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. EST inside the Columbus Civic Center.
The Sharks and Lions have a storied history and the last time these two teams played was during the 2019 NAL Playoffs and the Sharks were dominant in a 67-43 victory as they advanced to the 2019 NAL Championship. That year the Lions had to sit at home and watch the Sharks win their second NAL championship and now, nearly two years later, the Sharks are back to defend their title.
This season the Sharks have a new coaching staff after a deal for contract extension with Siaha Burley could not be reached. Former defensive coordinator James Fuller was promoted to head coach with Lee Johnson taking over defensive coordinator duties. Fuller was a big part of the Sharks dominance in 2019 as his defense produced four First Team All-NAL players, two Second Team All-NAL Players, a Defensive Rookie of the Year, Defensive Lineman of the Year, and Defensive Player of the Year.
The Sharks had the first two weeks of the season off before playing their first game of the season in week three against their in-state rival the Orlando Predators. The Sharks jumped out to a 15 point lead during the first quarter following two touchdown passes from Mike Fafaul.
The lead would not last long, however, due to costly turnovers, Mike Fafaul missing the second half with an injury and Predators receiver D.J. Meyers reeling in five touchdowns on the night. The Predators eventually won 52-41 thanks in part to forcing four turnovers and scoring 38 points combined in the second and third quarter.
The biggest question mark coming from that game is who will be starting at quarterback for the Sharks. The extent of the injury is not entirely clear with the Sharks not mentioning Fafaul’s health in their own preview article. The NAL injury report that should be released later in the week should give a better indication of who will start under center for the Sharks but as of now both Fafaul and the backup who stepped in for him during Saturday’s game, Breckenridge Ruddick, are both options.
Fafaul had a good first half against the Predators with three touchdowns and only one interception which could prove to be a challenge for the Lions defense that is coming off one of the best performances of the season against the Flight.
They have allowed just 28 points in the last six quarters and are looking to keep that momentum when Jacksonville comes to Columbus. For Ruddick, Fafaul’s backup, the challenge could be difficult as the young quarterback struggled in the second half, throwing two interceptions.
The Lions forced six turnovers against the Flight and the Sharks offense will be looking to keep the turnovers under control against the opportunistic Lions defense. Additionally, the Sharks did spread the ball around to a number of different receivers with Devin Wilson leading the team in all major categories with ten catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns. He got one touchdown from each quarterback and could be a problem for the Lions secondary.
On the defensive side, the Sharks struggled to contain D.J. Meyers, who caught five of Brian Hicks’ seven touchdowns passes on the night. Hicks and company were able to rely completely on the passing game on the way to their 52-41 victory and the Sharks had no answer for the passing attack. The defense did force a turnover of their own with a fumble recovery but the performance from Meyers, combined with the four turnovers from the Sharks on offense was too much for the defense.
The Lions have relied on their passing attack nearly all season and this Saturday’s matchup with the Sharks will likely be more of the same. Mason Espinosa is putting together a stellar season throwing the football and the talented group of receivers that surround him have made this offense one of the best in the NAL. They are facing an experienced coaching staff that finally has a game under their belt after nearly two years so the Sharks could make some adjustments on defense and show improvement from their season opener.
The Lions defense is coming off the best performance by any defense in the NAL and now they will have home advantage as they take on the Sharks.
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.
Tickets can be purchased here: https://www.ticketmaster.com/columbus-lions-columbus-georgia-06-19-2021/event/0E005AB5B4735F68.
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.