The History of the Lions in the first round

by Alex Husting

In the four seasons that the NAL has existed, the Columbus Lions, one of the league's founding members, has made the postseason every single year. They, along with the Jacksonville Sharks, are the only teams to make it to the postseason in all four years. This article will be looking at how the Lions have fared in first round games before.

The first ever playoff game for the Lions came on June 23, 2017 when the Lions travelled to Allentown, Pennsylvania to take on the Lehigh Vy Steelhawks. The Steelhawks were 9-1 while the Lions were 9-3, giving the Steelhawks home field advantage.

During that game, the Steelhawks were dominant through three quarters, holding a 43-21 lead with just under two minutes to play in the third quarter. The Lions responded with 31unanswered points, including four touchdown passes from Mason Espinosa to escape Pennsylvania with a 52-50 win and a trip to the inaugural NAL Championship game.

The next year the Lions were back on the road yet again, this time with Jeremy Johnson at quarterback and coming off a four game losing streak to end the regular season. The 8-7 Lions headed to Worcester, Massachusetts to take on the top team in the NAL, the 11-5 Massachusetts Pirates. The Pirates were 7-1 at home in 2018 and had beaten the Lions twice at home that season. 

Jeremy Johnson led the way with five touchdowns, four of which were on the ground, and the Lions were able to take a big lead in the second quarter and they never looked back, defeating the Pirates 50-36 and making it to the NAL Championship for the second year in a row.

In 2019,  the Lions would once again face off with the No. 1 seed in the NAL and this time it was the 14-1 Jacksonville Sharks. This Sharks team has the best record of any team in the NAL’s short history. 

The Lions came into the playoffs with a three-game winning streak but had struggled throughout the season, managing only a 6-8 record. The main problem for the Lions during the 2019 season was consistency at the quarterback position, with three different quarterbacks getting more than 40 pass attempts that season. 

In the first round of the 2019 playoffs it was Bryan Hicks who would get the start in the Lions third straight playoff appearance. The Lions were able to keep the game close through three quarters, with a Desmond Reece touchdown run cutting the Sharks lead to nine heading into the fourth quarter. The Sharks pulled away in the fourth, outscoring the Lions 23-8 in the fourth, winning the game 67-43 and earning their spot in the 2019 NAL Championship.

Now the Lions are heading to their fourth NAL first round matchup against the Orlando Predators. The Lions have found success in the past with their only loss coming against one of the best teams in the history of the NAL.

Kickoff for round one of the playoffs 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 or on the NAL’s official Youtube channel


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 Follow the Lions on Facebook at, twitter @columbuslions and


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 For more information about the NAL visit,,,