Lions Sneak Past Cobras in Snake Pit 47-46
Carolina Moves to 8-5
GREENSBORO—The Cobras scored 33 unanswered points to grab a late 46-39 lead but gave up a late Columbus touchdown and 2-point conversion to fall 47-46 to the surging Lions. A Desmond Reece touchdown with 13:13 left in the third quarter was the last Columbus score until just 26.6 seconds remained, when Jarmon Fortson caught a 31-yard touchdown pass from Mason Espinosa to draw within 1. Darien Townsen then caught an acrobatic 2-point conversion to create the final margin.
Saturday’s game was supposed to be a coming-out party of sorts for new quarterback Tommy Grady, an AFL legend and quarterback for last year’s NAL champion, Albany. Grady’s night got off to a rough start, fumbling on his second snap and then tossing a 50-yard pick-six to the returning “Nighthawk” for the Lions, Damian Daniels. The Cobras settled the offense and cut into the 14-point deficit with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Grady to Joe Hills, who also played for Albany last season.
The Cobras (8-5) trailed 21-6 midway through the third quarter when disaster struck. Grady began favoring his knee and ultimately was forced to exit the game. Due to NAL substitution rules, backup quarterback Malik Henry (who had already played one snap before Grady returned) was unable to come back into the game. With James Summers out, that left Adam Smith as the emergency quarterback. Smith, then found Kendrick Ings for a 21-yard touchdown, caught in classic Ings fashion-jumping, tumbling and catching the ball over the dasher boards. The pass was Smith’s first touchdown pass since 2011, when he was leading Davie High School against Dudley in a playoff game.
After Reece’s scoring grab to open the second half, Malik Henry entered and engineered an 8-play, 34 yard touchdown drive culminated by a Zack Brown 6-yard touchdown. Darien Townsend fumbled the ensuing kickoff return and the Cobras responded with a 7-play, 27 yard touchdown drive capped by Henry’s 1-yard spinning run into the end zone. The Lions remarkably ended the third quarter with a turnover on downs and once again, the Cobras struck. Henry led an 11-play 41-yard scoring drive that brought Carolina within 6 with 5:03 left.
What followed elicited the loudest roar of the season in the Greensboro Coliseum. D.J. Myers, having already forced and recovered a fumble, elevated for an onside kick recovery that gave the Cobras first down at their own 18-yard line. One play later, Lance Evans hauled in a 32-yard touchdown that gave Carolina its first lead at 40-39. Evans then intercepted Espinosa on the next possession, and the Cobras had possession with 2:26 to play. Carolina played add-on, with Henry throwing another touchdown to Joe Hills but a missed extra point left the lead at 46-39. The Lions would get the last & final score to finish the game 47-46.
All is not lost for the Cobras, as a playoff berth was clinched weeks ago and Jacksonville fell on the road at San Antonio. That creates a must-win situation as the Cobras still have a chance to finish as the top seed. No matter the playoff scenario, it all comes down to a win at Jacksonville. In the meantime, the Cobras need to get healthy. To win an NAL championship it’s going to take all hands on deck.