Regular Season Finale: Lions vs. Flight Preview
This Saturday the Columbus Lions (5-2) will be looking to bounce back from a 63-43 loss to the Albany Empire when the Jersey Flight (2-5) come to Columbus on July 31. The Lions have secured their playoff spot and will be the second seed when the playoffs begin on August 7 while the Flight are still in the hunt for the fourth and final spot.
The Lions met the Flight earlier this season on June 12 and were dominant in a 50-14 victory after going up 42-0 at halftime. At that time, that marked the Lions’ second straight victory and the Flight’s second straight loss.
Following that game the Flight seemed to turn things around with two straight victories, including a 77-27 win over the Carolina Cobras a mere week after the loss to the Lions. Despite the midseason momentum, the Flight returned from their bye in July and lost the next two games, including a nailbiter to the first-place Albany Empire.
Now the Flight are coming to Columbus for the season finale with a 2-5 record and fighting for the final playoff spot, needing a win against the Lions and losses by the Cobras and the Orlando Predators to make it.
The Flight have had one of the most stable offenses in the NAL this year and they are one of the three teams in the NAL that have not made a quarterback change at some point during the season. While the Sharks, Predators and Cobras have all had a quarterback carousel, the Flight have been led by Warren Smith in all seven games this season.
Despite that stability, the Flight are currently the worst offense in the NAL in terms of points and total offense. They average 199.4 yards per game and 39.1 points per game, both sixth in the NAL.
Their rushing yards per game (2.9) and passing yards per game (196.6) are both fifth in the NAL but where other teams have found success in one area on offense, the Flight have struggled with both.
Their issues on offense have led to problems in the red zone and the Flight are sixth in the league in red zone scores (28) and fourth in the league in red zone touchdowns (28). While they are fourth in the league in touchdown percentage (64%) they have come up empty handed on 16 red zone trips and part of the reason for that is their kicking game.
The Flight have had two kickers this season, Pat Clark and Nicholas Jakelsky. The two kickers have not made a field goal this season, with four total attempts, and have only made a combined 69% of extra point attempts.
Problems on special teams have forced the Flight to go for it on fourth down often, with 21 fourth down attempts this year, third most in the NAL. They have rarely found success on those 21 attempts and they are fifth in the NAL in fourth down conversions (7) and sixth in the league in fourth down conversion percentage (33%).
The Flight have also had turnovers issues, including 11 total fumbles lost and and seven interceptions. That gives them the second-most turnovers in the NAL behind only the Jacksonville Sharks but they have also been one of the best teams in the league at forcing turnovers, with 14 combined fumble recoveries and interceptions, third-best in the league.
Despite the issues on offense, the Flight defense has been one of the best in the NAL. Their scoring defense (43.9) is tied for second in the NAL and they allow only 202.1 yards per game and 176.6 passing yards per game, best in the NAL. They are fourth in the league in sacks (9) and fifth in rushing defense (25.6) but they are also second in the league in defensive touchdowns with four.
Even with that defense, the key for the Flight is Warren Smith. Smith’s play has been overshadowed by the incredible MVP race between Mason Espinosa and Tommy Grady but Warren Smith is third in the NAL in completion percentage (63.5%), touchdowns (22) and yards per game (194.4). When Warren Smith plays at a high level, the Flight have found success.
In fact, when Smith completes under 60% of his passes, which has occurred three times this season, the Flight have lost by double digits in each game. When his completion percentage is over 60%, the Flight have been in every game until the final minute, winning twice. Smith is the key to the Flight’s and keeping him in check is the key to victory for the Lions.
Kickoff for the regular season finale is set for 7 p.m EST on July 31 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.