LIONS COMPLETE 2ND STRAIGHT 4TH QUARTER COMEBACK, DEFEAT GUNSLINGERS 46-45
by Alex Husting
The comebacks continued for Columbus, after the Lions(2-0) completed their second straight fourth quarter comeback, defeating the San Antonio Gunslingers(0-2) 46-45 inside Freeman Coliseum.
The Lions struggled with penalties and turnovers, but crucial defensive stops and the legs of Darren Daniel made all the difference in a wild week 2 of NAL action.
The Lions received the opening kickoff once again, but two penalties and an interception by Daniel ended Columbus’ first drive. On the interception return, Daniel was called for unnecessary roughness, bringing San Antonio inside the Lions’ 10 yard line.
The Gunslingers offense was led by Robert Kent, one of the veterans of indoor football, who was signed earlier this week to replace an injured Kilgo.
Kent and the Gunslingers faced a tenacious Columbus defense, needing four plays and one offsides penalty to go seven yards, but fullback Pierre Turner was able to punch it in and take a 6-0 lead after a missed extra point.
Much like last week, Darren Daniel rebounded, finding Jarmon Fortson open for a one-play 38 yard touchdown drive. Ryan Gates was not available for Saturday’s game, so the Lions opted to go for two, with Daniel hitting Deloatch on a slant to make it 8-6.
After struggling out of the gate, Kent found his rhythm and a brilliant wheel route to Pierre Turner gave San Antonio the lead once again 12-8. The Gunslingers attempted their first two-point conversion of the night, but Deandre Brown was there to shut down the pitch to Turner.
The ensuing kickoff was nearly recovered by San Antonio, but Rodney Hall Jr. saved the possession for the Lions.
Gunslingers head coach Fred Shaw challenged the ruling, but Columbus maintained possession and San Antonio was out of challenges for the half.
Daniel was intercepted for the second time and Gunslingers took over at midfield.
Despite the momentum shift, the Columbus defense held back the San Antonio attack and Droell Greene forced an incompletion and turnover on downs inside the Lions’ 10.
Darren Daniel and the offense took over, needing a response. They got one with another Darren Daniel long ball to Darien Townsend for the 25 yard go-ahead touchdown. Townsend made a brilliant adjustment on the ball and reeled it in, but the two-point conversion failed and the Lions led 14-12.
San Antonio was back on offense with just over 2 minutes remaining and the Gunslingers played a balancing act, wasting as much time as possible while still going for the score.
They executed the plan perfectly, with Kent finding his receiver on the fade to the corner of the end zone and then taking it himself on the two-point try, giving San Antonio a 20-14 lead.
With less than 30 seconds remaining in the first half, the Lions needed an answer. An excellent rollout screen to Kendrick Washington, along with a late-hit penalty brough Columbus all the way to the San Antonio 7 yard line.
After an incompletion, Daniel got exactly what the Lions needed, hitting Fortson as he went over the wall to tie the game at 20.
San Antonio got the ball first and did not waste the opportunity with a one play drive and Kent finding Marcel Brooks in the corner of the end zone to take the 27-20 lead within the first minute of the second half.
The teams exchanged touchdowns on the next three possessions, with both San Antonio and Columbus utilizing the lineman screen pass to great success, with San Antonio’s Tre Harlan rumbling in for a third quarter score.
Daniel scored once on the ground, once through the air and the Lions led 34-33 going into the fourth quarter.
They also had possession after the defense forced a turnover on downs by the Gunslingers inside Lions' territory
To start the final quarter, Darren Daniel uner threw Townsend and was picked off for the third and final time. The Gunslingers took over at the five with over 14 minutes remaining and just a few plays later Kent found his man open in the corner of the end zone for a 23 yard touchdown, recapturing the lead 39-34 and re-energizing the Freeman Coliseum.
The Lions responded with three completions to Townsend on a six play drive and Daniel scored another rushing touchdown to take a 40-39 lead with time ticking down.
San Antonio got inside Lions’ territory on the next series, but the drive stalled and on 3rd and 15, Kent fumbled the snap and Brandon Thorpe recovered with 3:46 remaining.
The Lions worked the clock and extended the lead to 46-39 behind a Daniel rushing touchdown with 40.7 seconds remaining in the game.
On the following kickoff, Fuller sent it deep but Kali Rashaad, who had been dangerous all game, returned it all the way for a crucial score with 28 seconds left.
The Gunslingers were set up to go for two, but a false start penalty backed them up, leading to an extra point attempt which went wide left. San Antonio still trailed 46-45.
With no time and timeouts running low, the Gunslingers only option was an onside kick. The kick did not initially go the full 10 yards, but in the chaos of bodies it bounced past the 10 and Rashaad scrambled to recover it and give San Antonio one last chance.
With 11 seconds remaining, Kent found Brooks one last time inside the Columbus 15 and the clock stopped with six seconds left. The Gunslingers had two shots at the end zone, but both fell incomplete and the Lions survived, 46-45.
It was not a perfect game, but the Lions once again fought from behind to win. Daniel struggled through the air with three interceptions, but his running ability once again made a huge impact, and his ability to connect with Fortson and Townsend on deep throws is becoming a vital part of the offense.
The Lions will have a bye week at a crucial time as their new quarterback can get more comfortable in the offense and the players can adjust after experiencing the NAL Ironman rules.
You can rewatch the Lions vs San Antonio in its entirety right here on the NAL Youtube Channel.
The Lions will be on their first of two byes next week. They will return to action on Saturday May 14, when they travel to Jacksonville to take on their archrivals the Sharks for the second time. Tickets for that game, which will be inside VyStar Veterans Memorial Memorial Arena, are on sale here. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m EST.
The Lions will be back inside the Columbus Civic Center on May 28 to face the defending NAL Champions, the Albany Empire. Tickets for that grudge match are available for purchase here.
2022 NAL Season tickets for the Lions are still on sale here.
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 email@example.com For more information about the NAL visit www.nationalarenaleague.com, facebook.com/nationalarenaleauge, twitter.com/NALfootball, Instagram.com/nationalarenaleague.