Winners of two straight games, the Columbus Lions will look to keep their positive momentum going tonight when they host the Louisiana Swashbucklers at the Columbus Civic Center.
Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and Lions coach Jason Gibson said his team will have to be ready for the Swashbucklers, who earned their first win of the season last week by beating Knoxville, 36-27, in Lake Charles, La.
"Louisiana's only 1-3, but they're only a game out of second place," Gibson said. "They're a dangerous team. We went down there and won a close game (45-42 on March 13) and they probably felt like we stole that game, so they're going to want to come back up here and steal one in our house."
Columbus (3-2) is coming off a 48-42 win over Richmond that saw the Lions trail by 15 points with 9:32 to go in the game before scoring the final 21 points. The comeback was fueled by stellar performances from some unlikely sources, including new
quarterback Brian Harris, who was 11-for-15 for 125 yards and four touchdowns in less than a half.
Wideout Gerald Gales, who had seven catches in the Lions' first four contests, came through with a big game, finishing with eight receptions for 120 yards and four touchdowns. Also pitching in were Jarmon Fortson and LeRoy Vann, players known more for their defensive work but who also contributed on the offensive side of the ball. Fortson had a team-high seven tackles, but also caught three passes for 42 yards and a touchdown, while Vann had five tackles, six catches for 69 yards and a touchdown.
Columbus had six players miss the Richmond game due to injury and two of them, wide receiver Maurice Dupree (elbow) and linebacker Ryan Babb (hand), will definitely be back tonight. A third, defensive lineman William Hollis (groin), is listed as questionable. Still out are wide receiver/quarterback Earl Alexander (hamstring), fullback/defensive lineman Gerald Harris (ribs) and linebacker Herschel Thornton (wrist).
"We're fairly healthy," said Gibson. "We're banged up and just getting into the meat of the schedule, so we're letting some of our guys take it easy in practice because we don't want to beat them up too much. Everybody battles injuries during the season. It's just a matter of how well your backups perform."
Speaking of backups, Harris will get the start at quarterback tonight after leading the comeback against Richmond. He'll be the third starting quarterback for the Lions this season and replaces Marcus Jones, who was 7-for-20 for 110 yards with two touchdowns and an interception before being benched in the third quarter.
"It wasn't a hard decision (to start Harris)," said Gibson. "It's definitely not when you throw for four touchdowns in 1½ quarters. We're still going to try to take advantage of (Jones') athleticism. He played wide receiver and linebacker at Duke, so we know he can still do some good things for us."
Notes: Lions defensive back Anthony Shutt was named the Professional Indoor Football League's Defensive Player of the Week after snagging two interceptions against Richmond last week. Shutt leads the PIFL with five interceptions, two more than the next-best player. Louisiana is sixth in the league in scoring (35 points per game), but leads the PIFL in scoring defense, only allowing 41.8 points per game. Meanwhile, Columbus is third in scoring (46.6 ppg) and fourth in scoring defense (44.8 ppg). In other action around the PIFL tonight, the Richmond (Va.) Raiders (3-2) travel to Bethlehem, Pa., to take on the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks (2-3) and the league-leading Alabama Hammers (5-1) host the cellar-dwelling Knoxville (Tenn.) Nighthawks (1-5) in Huntsville, Ala.
WHO: Louisiana Swashbucklers (1-3) at Columbus Lions (3-2)
WHERE: Columbus Civic Center
WHEN: Tonight, 7:30 p.m.