Columbus Lions looking to rebound at home vs. Fire

Columbus signs Vann to bolster secondary

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerApril 25, 2014 

ROBIN TRIMARCHI Columbus Lions wide receiver Earl Alexander pulls in a pass against Richmond defensive back Torez Jones at the Columbus Civic Center April 19.


The Columbus Lions' season may only be one-third of the way done, but that didn't stop Lions coach Jason Gibson from labeling Saturday's home game against the Georgia Fire as a "must-win" game.

"It's a division game, and we're playing at home," said Gibson, whose team hosts the Fire (1-1) at 7 p.m. at The Columbus Civic Center.

"These are the kinds of games that we have to win. I don't care about what the score was when we played them before (a 71-34 Lions win on April 11 in Columbus).

"They're going to want to come in here and hang 60 points on us and win."

In the teams' prior meeting, the Lions scored 31 straight points in the first half and built a 52-13 halftime lead before cruising to the victory.

Columbus quarterback Antwon Young was 11-for-15 for 216 yards and seven touchdowns in two-plus quarters of work before being lifted.

Wideout Earl Alexander caught four passes for 120 yards and three touchdowns and linebacker Justen Rivers blocked two field goals.

However, all of the momentum the Lions (2-2) had built with consecutive home wins over the Richmond (Va.) Raiders and Georgia (1-1) went by the wayside last week as Columbus dropped a 66-63 decision to the Trenton Freedom in New Jersey.

Columbus led 28-14 in the first half and had multiple chances to go up by even more points, but a series of bad offensive possessions allowed the Freedom to get back in the game.

Trenton scored touchdowns on its last six possessions, and the Lions' offense scored touchdowns on only three of their last seven drives, allowing the Freedom to complete the comeback and win the game.

"We had some injuries happen, and we just ran out of gas," said Gibson, whose team trails the Nashville Venom by 1 1-2 games in the Professional Indoor Football League American Division standings.

"We could've been up 21 in the first half and put the nails in the coffin, but we let them back into the game."

Young was only 19-of-34 passing, but he threw for 297 yards and seven more touchdowns against just one interception.

Jarmon Fortson -- who leads the team with 20 catches and is third for the Lions with 11.5 tackles -- caught seven passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns.

Newcomer Charles Gilbert made an impact in his debut with five receptions for 99 yards and three scores.

Another new face in the Lions' lineup will be an old familiar face, as defensive back/kick returner LeRoy Vann was signed this week to bolster the Columbus secondary.

The combination of Vann, along with Damian "Nighthawk" Daniels -- who broke the indoor football record for most career interceptions in the Lions' victory two weeks ago -- should make opposing quarterbacks think twice about throwing downfield when they have the ball.

"We signed (Vann) and hopefully he'll solidify the defensive backs," said Gibson.

"He and (Daniels) make a good pair back there. We just need them to stay healthy for us."

Along with getting some dinged-up players back in the lineup -- Fortson is questionable due to a slight concussion and several other players could miss tonight's game -- Gibson said offensive execution is a big key to winning tonight's game.

"We've been playing well, but we're still making mistakes offensively and we have to eliminate those if we want to win," Gibson said.

"We'll have people run the wrong route or miss a block that leads to a sack. We've had a fumble in every game, and two of them came at times where we had a chance to win. We have to cut out those kinds of things."

After Saturday's game, the Lions have two consecutive bye weeks before returning to action May 17 on the road against the Alabama Hammers in Huntsville.

The next home game for Columbus will be May 31 against the Lehigh Valley (Pa.) Steelhawks.

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