Columbus Lions out for redemption after ugly loss to Louisiana last week

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerMay 4, 2013 

Last week, the Columbus Lions lost a 77-65 decision to the Lousiana Swashbucklers at the Columbus Civic Center in a game that left everyone -- including head coach Jason Gibson -- in a bad mood.

"It was devastating," said Gibson of the loss, which snapped a two-game winning streak. "I can look back on that game and say we should've won. A win there would've put us at 4-2 and now we're back to square one."

Columbus (3-3) starts the second half of its schedule this afternoon in Bethlehem, Pa., where the Lions take on the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks (2-4). Kickoff for the game at Stabler Arena is scheduled for 4 p.m.

The Lions' lackluster performance against Louisiana, which included five turnovers and allowing Louisiana to score 10 touchdowns, led Gibson to up the intensity level in practice this week and promise that changes will be made if his players don't up their game.

"Practice was more intense this week and I told the guys they have to start practicing like professionals," said Gibson. "I told them if they can't do that, I'm going to find people who will. It may come across as ugly, but this is about winning football games, not friendships."

To that end, Gibson signed another quarterback this week -- former North Alabama standout Lee Chapple. Chapple is the fifth quarterback Gibson has signed since the season started and comes in the wake of Brian Harris' five-turnover performance (three interceptions, two lost fumbles) against Louisiana.

Gibson said Harris will start today against Lehigh Valley, but with the presence of Chapple and Marcus Jones on the Lions' roster, his leash has gotten a lot shorter.

"(Chapple) is an Arena League guy and we've been trying to get him for a while," said Gibson. "I talked to (Harris) and he knows he has to perform or he's going to have to go. Regardless of what happens, I have another quarterback coming in next week that we're going to look at, too."

The Lions made two other moves this week, waiving defensive backs Mychal Bailey and Herschel Thornton. Bailey had three solo tackles in his only game this season and might be best known for breaking up a pass on the final play of the Lions' 48-42 win over Richmond on April 20. Thornton had six total tackles (five solo, two assists) in two games before being sidelined with a wrist injury.

As for Lehigh Valley, the Steelhawks come into today's game perhaps even more desperate for a win than the Lions. Lehigh Valley has dropped three straight games -- including its last two at home by two points apiece -- and the Steelhawks are one game behind Columbus in the Professional Indoor Football League standings.

"Lehigh Valley has a great quarterback and scores a lot of points," said Gibson. "Their coach was telling me they have the worst defense in the league, but we've been struggling to score points. We need to play great defense and just play mistake-free football. We've given up 70 points twice this season. Teams can't do that unless you give them some help and we have been.

Lehigh Valley is second in the seven-team PIFL in points per game (54.5) and leads the league in total offense (316.2 ypg) and passing offense (260.2 ypg), but the Steelhawks are last in scoring defense (allowing 50.5 ppg), pass defense (258.8 ypg) and total defense (284.8 ypg).

Meanwhile, Columbus is third in scoring (49.7 ppg), but next-to-last in passing offense (210.7 ypg) and total offense (245.8 ypg) and dead-last in turnover margin at minus-5 (14 takeaways, 19 giveaways). The 19 turnovers (four fumbles, 15 interceptions) are the most of any team in the PIFL.

Defensively, Columbus is next-to-last in scoring (50.2 ppg) and total defense (275.8 ypg) and last in rushing defense (45.2 ypg). One bright spot is that the 14 turnovers forced (three fumbles, 11 interceptions) is tied for second-best in the league.

Notes: Today's game will be broadcast on the Lions' website, www.columbuslions.net. Just click on the "Listen Live" link on the right side of the homepage. Air time is 3:55 p.m....The Lions' Anthony Shutt leads the PIFL with seven interceptions. No other player has more than three...Lehigh Valley quarterback Adam Bednarik is second in the league in passing yards per game (255 ypg) and passing efficiency (111.3)...Despite being slowed by an elbow injury, Columbus wide receiver Maurice Dupree still leads the league in receiving yards per game (120.2) and is second in receiving touchdowns (12).

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