For every blowout the Columbus Lions have had this season, there’s been a dog fight.
It’s just been the way the league’s toughest conference goes this season.
South Division teams are 13-13 against one another this season and 10-2 against other opponents. It makes for great competition, but with only the divisions’ top two teams making the playoffs, it’s a tough pill to swallow.
“We knew going in this year that this was going to be like this,” Lions coach Jason Gibson said. “Based on what these teams did last year, the talent — we just knew this was going to be a tough division to be in. That’s what we have to play against.”
In the West Division, the Wyoming Cavalry and Utah Valley Thunder are tied with 6-1 records, but have all but eliminated the New Mexico Wildcats (1-5) and the Ogden Knights (0-6) from the playoffs already.
The Reading Express (6-2) sit atop the North Division with the Baltimore Mariners (4-3) a game behind, but the next two teams have only two wins and the Erie River Rats have yet to win at all.
“I almost wish we could play in one of those other divisions,” Gibson said. “But it’s all right. We get the experience against the best teams, and we get better from it.”
The Lions’ victory over the South Carolina Force last week, coupled with the Florence Phantoms’ loss, put Columbus and Florence in a tie for first in the South with a 6-2 record.
With today’s game against the Lions, South Carolina’s back is up against a wall. At 3-4 overall, the Force could fall out of playoff competition with one more loss.
“They’re going to be hungry, that’s for sure,” Gibson said. “They’ll have their home crowd, it’s in South Carolina. It’s not going to be easy.”
The Lions rolled over the Force 54-33 last week with rookie quarterback Kevin Huff leading the way. He’ll get the start again today and recent signee Todd Spitzer, also a rookie, will play backup.
The Lions released quarterback Bill Ashburn this week, and he has since signed with the Harrisburg Stampede.
The Lions’ defense will be without defensive back Ramone Nickerson, who is missing the game to attend his graduation at Tuskegee. Jason Perry will start in his place.