by Alex Husting

With a new look roster, the NAL Ironman rules and a starting quarterback that was signed five days ago, there were a lot of questions surrounding the Columbus Lions heading into the fifth season of NAL football. 

They would be put to the test, facing their arch rivals the Jacksonville Sharks in the first game of the 2022 season. They were tested and struggled in the first half, but Darren Daniel and the new look Lions rallied to defeat the Sharks in overtime 56-49.

Darien Townsend made an immediate impact, taking the opening kickoff all the way to the Jacksonville 10, but that was the furthest the Lions would get and after three straight penalties, Darren Daniel was picked off. 

The first series of the Damian Daniels era did not go much better, with Jackosnville scoring on the first play as Malik Henry found a wide open Devin Wilson for the score.  

Columbus responded quickly with Daniel hitting Jarmon Fortson in the end zone on the first play, but that would be the only scoring of the first quarter for the Lions, with a Devin Wilson touchdown and a Darren Daniel turnover leading to a 21-7 deficit for Columbus. 

The Lions were in desperate need of a momentum shift  and Darren Daniel got exactly what the team needed, scrambling for a 20-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to one touchdown. 

Columbus had no answer for Devin Wilson who caught his third touchdown of the game over two defenders on the very next drive.

Darien Townsend finally took a kickoff  the distance with 7 minutes remaining and onn the extra point attempt, he took it himself and found Deloatch in the back of the end zone for the two-point conversion, making it 28-22 in favor of Jacksonville.

On the next drive, the Lions held the Sharks to a field goal attempt, but Romon Deloatch hit the kicker and Jacksonville took advantage, finding the end zone on the next play. With 47 seconds left and trailing 35-22, the Lions needed an answer before halftime and they did not get it, turning it over on downs inside the Jacksonville 10. 

The Sharks received the second half kickoff and looked to add to the lead, but the Lions defense was ready and Jarmon Fortson recovered a fumble for the first touchdown of the half. Townsend failed to handle the snap on the extra point and the Lions trailed 35-28.

Jacksonville methodically marched down the field on the drive that would ultimately decide the game. The Lions defense held strong and on fourth down inside the Columbus 10, Jarmon Fortson forced another turnover with a pick six; however, the Lions were called for illegal defense, giving Jacksonville a fresh set of downs. The Sharks would not be denied this time, with a toss to Kamrin Solomon giving them a two-touchdown lead once again.

Then the Darren Daniel rollercoaster continued as the new quarterback hit Jarmon Fortson in stride for a one play, 35-yard touchdown and it was 42-35 with one quarter remaining. And Columbus kept pressure on with a Darien Townsend interception on the first play of the ensuing drive breathing life into the Columbus Civic Center. 

The first minutes of the fourth quarter were all Darien Townsend, as the new receiver accounted for all of Columbus’ offense on the next possession, including a 20 yard touchdown to tie the game. 

Devin Wilson took over again, with a brilliant touchdown catch over Charles McClain on fourth down to give the Sharks the 49-42 lead.

The Lions needed to tie things up without about eight minutes remaining, and the chances looked dire after three straight incomplete passes inside the Sharks 10. On fourth down, Daniel went to the veteran Fortson who could not come down with it, but the Sharks were called for pass interference so the Lions received four more opportunities.

On third down with just under one minute remaining, Daniel kept it himself and snuck into the end zone along the left side.

At 49-49, Jacksonville looked to end it in regulation. After being stopped three times, the Sharks opted for a field goal attempt that sailed wide left, sending the game to overtime.

Columbus struck first in the overtime period, with a two play drive that ended with Daniel's third rushing touchdown of the night. 

It was up to the Lions defense to get one last stop to secure the win and they did just that. Jacksonville was able to push the ball inside the 10, but came up short after Romon Deloatch hit Henry while he was looking to throw on fourth down. 

In the first game of NAL Ironman rules, a former receiver made the play on defense to seal the victory for the Lions.

You can rewatch the Lions’ season opening victory in its entirety right here on the NAL Youtube Channel

The Lions will be on the road next week to take on the San Antonio Gunslingers inside the Freeman Coliseum. Tickets for that game are on sale here, and those who can’t make it to Texas can stream the game live on the NAL Youtube Channel. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m EST. 

2022 NAL Season tickets for the Lions are still on sale here.


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 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 sixth season in 2022. For more information regarding expansion opportunities or partnerships, contact Commissioner Chris Siegfried at For more information about the NAL visit,,,