The Columbus Lions defeated the High Country Grizzles Saturday night in Boone, NC before an excited crowd, 56-41. The Good Guys in Blue look to “run the table” for the last 3 games of the regular season, finish 9-3, and will likely head to Lehigh Valley to avenge the heartbreaking loss to the Steelhawks, in the first half of the season.
On the first drive of the game, it looked as though the Lions would cruise to another landslide victory. Mason Espinoza, filling on for Darrin Daniel, matriculated the ball down the field with ease, and found Jarmon Fortson in the back of the end zone for an early 7-0 lead. After the defense held HC to a field goal, Espinoza found Tristan Purifoy on a 25yd TD pitch and catch to make the score 14-3 Lions. After one quarter of play it was 21-10.
The Lions played well on both sides of the ball in the second quarter, as the defense held the 3-5 Grizzlies to a mere 3 points, and Espinoza and the offense added 10 more, 3 from a Lindsey Wolfe kick and another TD when Greg Holliger got into the mix. The Lions managed the clock particularly well in the final few minutes, preventing a score from the Grizzles, and holding the ball until the clock struck 00:00 when Wolfe hit his kick. The score at halftime, 30-13 good guys.
The second half saw more highlights early as Marte Sears picked off a Panasuck pass on the first play and returned it inside the 10 yd. line. A few plays later, Michael Reeve caught a toss from Espinoza making it 36-13. All indications were the Lions would bury the Grizzlies and look forward to the same next week vs the Rage.
Not so fast Lions, the enemy always has a vote.
The Grizzlies, showing resiliency and guts marched down the field in under 5 plays and trimmed the lead to 36-20. So much for the easy 2nd half victory. Time to get to work.
Espinoza and the Lion offense answered again, and Tristan Purifoy added another TD making the lead 43-20. Again, the Lion defense was tagged in the face by the motivated Grizzlies, who trimmed the lead once again to 16 points making it 43-27.
The 4th quarter saw more back and forth scoring as the Lions continued to extend their lead each time they possessed the ball. Espinoza made 4 critical throws in the 4th, 3 coming on fourth down and one for a TD. The Lion offense was efficient and effective and scored on every possession, minus the last after a botched snap. The Lion defense did force turnovers and pressured the Grizzly QB all night, but too many big plays were given up in key situations that allowed the Grizzlies to stay in the game. Kendrick Washington, Logan Ingle and newcomer Jerome Raymond all netted sacks, but Panasuk made plays at decisive points.
The Lions will enjoy the “W” and get ready for their final home game this Saturday night vs the Corpus Christi Rage. Kickoff is set for 7pm at the Columbus Civic Center.