Keys to the Game: Lions vs. Flight
Getting to Warren Smith Early May Mean 6-2 Regular Season Finish
The Columbus Lions will face off with the Jersey Flight this Saturday in the regular season finale. While the Lions have already secured their playoff spot, the Flight are fighting for the fourth seed and are coming off a close loss to the first place Albany Empire. Here are the keys to victory for the Lions.
1. Attack the Quarterback
Through seven games, the Lions have been the best in the NAL at sacking the quarterback, with 15 sacks so far this season. More importantly, when they sack the quarterback, they win games. The Lions are 5-0 in games where the defense registers at least one sack, but they are 0-2 in games with no sacks. Both losses came against the Empire when the defense was unable to put pressure on Tommy Grady. When the Lions generate pressure, they can force the quarterback into mistakes and halt drives. They will need to put pressure on Warren Smith in order to have success against the Flight.
2. Hold Smith’s completion percentage under 60%
When Flight quarterback Warren Smith completes over 60% of his passes, the Flight are 2-2, with each loss only by one score, including that close loss against the Empire in which Smith completed 63.2% of his passes. When Smith completes under 60%, the Flight are 0-2 with each loss by 20+ points. The Flight have a talented trio of receivers with Tyron Laughinghouse, Larry Beavers and Jared Dangerfield and when Smith is able to get the football to that group, the Flight have found success. If the Lions can lock down the Flight trio, then Smith will have problems moving the football down the field and the Flight offense will struggle.
3. Convert on Special Teams
Since Ryan Gates went down with an injury earlier in the season, the kicker position has remained a question mark, with two different kickers in the last two games. While special teams has not been nearly as big of a factor in games since the season opener, the struggles for the Lions have continued. With Tristan Reynolds against the Sharks and Craig Camay against the Empire, the Lions have gone 2-3 on field goals and 9-14 on extra points. If the game goes down to the wire, like the Flight’s close loss to the Empire, the Lions will need to convert special teams opportunities.
4. Desmond Reece and Sam Dobbs
The NAL injury report released on Thursday revealed that the Lions will be without wide receiver Romond Deloatch on Saturday. Deloatch has been a reliable target for Mason Espinosa with 46 receptions this season, second on the team, and 11 touchdowns which leads the Lions receiving corps. The Lions will miss not only his ability as a pass catcher but as a blocker, with Deloatch often serving as the Lions blocker on screen pass plays. With Deloatch out, the Lions will likely turn to a combo of Desmond Reece and Sam Dobbs. Dobbs’ strength and physicality will be used in screen pass situations as the lead blocker while Reece will be used more in the passing game and has proven to be a threat this year with 290 yards and eight touchdowns so far this year.
Kickoff for the regular season finale is set for 7 p.m EST on July 31 and tickets are on sale here. The game can be watched live with CTV Beam, at https://www.nationalarenaleague.com/home or on the NAL’s official Youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSzSD8STXiEVPVtUDO9juhA.
ABOUT THE COLUMBUS LIONS
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 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 fifth season in 2021. For more information regarding expansion opportunities or partnerships, contact Commissioner Chris Siegfried at email@example.com For more information about the NAL visit www.nationalarenaleague.com, facebook.com/nationalarenaleauge, twitter.com/NALfootball, Instagram.com/nationalarenaleague.