Columbus Lions finishes disappointing season with loss to Albany

Special To The Ledger-EnquirerJune 23, 2013 

For one half Saturday night, the Columbus Lions were able to keep up with the Albany Panthers, leading a good portion of the first two quarters and trailing only 29-28 at halftime.

However, the Lions offense had a power outage in the second half and Albany (7-5) outscored Columbus 30-7 to cruise to a 59-35 victory at the Albany Civic Center.

"They got a lot of pressure in the second half," said Lions coach Jason Gibson, whose team finished the season 4-8 with two straight losses and six setbacks in its last seven games. "The pocket squeezed in on us and they got something like four sacks in the second half. They just started getting more pressure and it cost us. We got stopped on 4th-and-goal at their 1-yard line twice.

"Plus, we started the game with two receivers playing defensive back and our top two defensive backs weren't even in the lineup. Even then, we still played well enough defensively to win the game. We just haven't put together a whole game offensively the whole season."

Despite falling behind 7-0 just 1:04 into the game, the Lions came back and scored their first touchdown on a 4-yard run by Gerald Harris and took a 14-7 lead after a 15-yard touchdown pass from Lee Chapple to Maurice Dupree midway through the first quarter.

Albany responded with a touchdown of its own, but Chapple hooked up with Marcus Jones on a 23-yard touchdown pass on the Lions' next possession and Columbus led 21-13 after one quarter.

The Panthers scored the next 13 points on a pair of long touchdown passes from Cecil Lester to Johnny Lester and John Harris to go up 26-21 with 5:40 to go before halftime, but Chapple hit Gerald Gales with a 4-yard touchdown pass to put the Lions ahead, 28-26, with 28 seconds left in the half.

Albany got the final score of the half, though, as former Lion Ryan Gates made a 28-yard field goal at the horn to send the Panthers into the locker room with a 29-28 advantage.

Columbus retook the lead, 35-29, on its opening drive of the second half on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Chapple to Dupree, but those were the last points the Lions would score.

It was the eighth time in 12 games the Lions failed to top 50 points and the third time this season -- and the second straight game -- Columbus failed to score 40.

"Our defense is good enough to win games," said Gibson, who is 64-36 in seven years as the Lions coach. "We haven't been able to score. Our main focus in the offseason is going to be to make sure we have the right players in place to score 65 or 70 points per game.

"I've got to get the offensive side of the ball fixed and that's just finding good players and not turning the ball over. It's not just quarterback play. It's protection breakdowns and receivers not running the right routes. The offense just needs a total overhaul."

Chapple finished the game 19-for-36 passing for 260 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Gales caught seven passes for 44 yards and a score, Jones had five catches for 105 yards and one touchdown and Dupree added four receptions for 79 yards and two touchdowns.

Daniel Lee -- a wide receiver who was pressed into defensive back duties due to injuries to the Lions' secondary -- led Columbus with 4.5 tackles (4 solo, 1 assist). Linebacker Ryan Babb had four solo tackles and Jarmon Fortson -- another wideout playing defensive back -- had 3.5 tackles (2 solo, 3 assists) and a pass breakup.

With seven months before training camp starts for the 2014 season, Gibson said he and his staff will be busy on multiple fronts.

"The first step right now is to get as many people as we can into the AFL or into CFL camps," Gibson said. "That's something I'll start working on (this morning). Three people who started for us in the last two years were making an impact in the AFL (Saturday night). That's a blessing and a curse. Roster turnover hurts us badly sometimes, but the two biggest things we're going to do are follow the rules and try to get people to next level. We've started making a list of prospective players for next season and recruiting as well."

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