The night could not have started better for the Lions. After former Minnesota Viking Bob Reed handled the coin toss, the Empire were first to receive after Columbus deferred the win at the coin toss. Quarterback Sam Castranova dropped back on his second play from scrimmage and attempted to a pass to his left when it was deflected into the air by Ken Washington and into the hands of wide receiver turned defensive end, Deandre Brown. Daniel Smith started under center for the Lions. He was unable to make a connection with any of the Lions receivers but did complete a pass into the arms of Albany’s Marquel Wade, a former Arkansas Razorback, on a fourth down heave interception. One heave allowed another. This one came from Sam Castranova and traveled roughly the distance of the whole field and came down into the loving arms of star wideout Darius Prince. 7-0 Empire. On the ensuing possession, Smith settled in and fired the Lions down the field. The capstone being a wonderfully inventive roll-out to the left and lob, with pinpoint accuracy, across both Smith’s body and the length of the field into Darrien Townsend’s stride for 6. Black Erickson converted the extra point to bring things level at 7. Another methodical drive, this time by the Empire, finished in a shotgun snap to Castranova being handed to Trevon Shorts for the first rushing touchdown of the night. Albany’s replacement placekicker failed to convert the third PAT of the night and the score stopped at 13-7. After the kickoff, the quarter ended on some unsavory conduct by the Empire defensive line that was rewarded with yellow laundry helping push the Lions near midfield.
The second quarter began with more heroics from Daniel Smith that quickly turned into villainy. Marquel Wade made his second connection with Smith on the night for the second interception credited to both. The Empire quickly capitalized on the turnover with a touchdown toss to Dwayne Hollis and a successful point after attempt. 20-7. The Lions returned the favor with a circus catch from Jarmon Fortson in the quarter of the end zone for a touchdown. Erickson missed his first attempt on the night and the score was brought to 20-13. Sam Castranova led Albany down the field and did his best Daniel Smith impression scrambling to his right and cutting up the field and into the end zone for the second rushing touchdown of the night. The Empire extended their lead to 27-13. The Lions responded well but stalled at Albany’s one yard line and were forced into a turnover on downs. The Empire marched down the field but failed to manage the little time they had left and saw the half end 27-13.
The Empire began the second half on defense, but a blown coverage meant the defenses would not stand for long. On the first play from scrimmage, Smith completed a pitch and catch to a wide-open Darrien Townsend who high stepped into the end zone untouched. The lead was reduced to 7 points after an Erickson PAT conversion and a Blake Erickson, kicking extraordinaire, completed a touchdown saving tackle on the ensuing kickoff. However, one play is all Prince and Castranova needed to finish what their kick return had begun with another 6 points. The extra point brought the game to 34-20. Deandre “Moss” Brown leaped higher than the defensive back and secured an immediate response on the next drive to pull the game back to one possession, 34-27. Castranova then showcased his athleticism when he decided to go on a 30-yard touchdown scamper unassisted. Just that quickly, 41-27. An ill-advised backfoot lob from Daniel Smith was snagged by Dwayne Hollis for Smith’s third interception on the night. The Lions were able to force a fourth down on the following possession, but 4th down saw another Castranova touchdown pass. The following extra point attempt was blocked. 47-27. Determined to turn the ship around, Smith found Darrien Townsend who made an unbelievable catch on a perfect throw in the corner of the end zone. Both teams entered the final quarter Albany 47 – Columbus 34.
The Empire began a 4 plus minute drive to start the final chapter and ended it similarly to its previous entries. Namely, a Sam Castranova rushing touchdown (His third of the night) and a missed extra point. The lead stretched to 54-34. The Lions responded, if a bit belatedly, with yet another Darrien Townsend touchdown catch. Erickson converted another and with 7:11 to go the lead shrunk to 54-41. Another touchdown pass from Castranova seemed to break the back of Columbus’ resistance and the following 21 points scored by both sides felt and ultimately were academic. 67-48 is the final in a valiant effort by your Lions.
ABOUT THE COLUMBUS LIONS
The Columbus Lions are members of the National Arena League (NAL). Founded in 2007, the Columbus Lions are starting their 16th season in 2022. The Lions are a 3x league champion and 14 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 sixth season in 2022. 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.