In front of a significant crowd in the Columbus Civic Center on Saturday night, your Lions put up a valiant effort but fell one possession shy of prolonging their endeavor to avenge last season’s ending against the returning champions, the Albany Empire. The Empire started strongly with a drive capped by a touchdown pass from quarterback Sam Castranova to his wideout and former Arkansas Razorback, Marquel Wade. Quarterback Danny Southwick got the nod at QB1 but was not afforded much protection from his offensive line. He was forced out of the game with an apparent lower leg injury but not before he was able to complete two touchdown passes on his first two drives. One of those touchdowns was thrown to one Jarmon Fortson who would feature ever more prominently as the night developed. The Empire responded with a couple of rushing touchdowns of their own. Southwick’s withdrawal saw Wide Receiver, Defensive Back, and Columbus native, Jarmon Fortson, come into emergency relief. Fortson performed admirably in what was definitely an unscripted cameo. Shortly before half-time Fortson connected with his receiver room compatriot Romond Deloatch for a touchdown in the back of the end zone to bring the Lions within 3 points going into the half at 21-18.
To start the second half, we saw the return of quarterback Darren Daniel. Following a turnover on downs for the Empire, Daniel was able to sheriff the offense straight down the field and finish his return with a touchdown pass to none other than, Jarmon Fortson. The Empire again responded on the ground with a significant touchdown scamper by Angelo State alumnus, Calvin Fance, his second on the day. Another significant drive led by Daniel ended this time in ignominy. New signing kicker, Blake Ericson, faced another knock in a night to forget when his attempt that would have lifted the Lions above the Empire was blocked. Following the first mistake, a busted coverage allowed an Empire receiver to walk into the endzone bringing the score to 33-25. The Lions responded with an excellent kick off return by Darien Townswend and a savy toss play to fullback Kerry Starks for 6 points. Castranova responded with a dart to wide receiver Darius Prince and the Lions were faced with a 39-31 deficit to overcome deep in the 4th quarter. Daniel and the Lions took multiple shots to the endzone in their final drive but ultimately turned the ball back over to the Empire who closed out a 39-31 nail bitter of two NAL title contenders. One thing is for sure, the last shot has not been fired in game of thrones that is the National Arena League.