Congratulations. Here’s a T-shirt and there’s a new banner hanging from the rafters. Now get over yourselves.
Columbus Lions coach Jason Gibson’s message to his players before their playoff opener last week was all business.
“It’s all great to talk winning the division about when we’re having a beer or eating some barbecue or whatever,” Gibson said. “But it’s not anything we need to talk about anymore. A division championship banner is great and all, but we’d rather have that championship.”
The banner declaring the Lions the new South Division champions in the American Indoor Football Association hung behind the north goal in the Columbus Civic Center but went largely unnoticed at practice.
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“We don’t even look at that stuff,” defensive back Damian Daniels said. “The first 14 games don’t matter anymore. We started a whole new season last week. All we were thinking about was going 3-0, and we’ve still got two games left before we start looking at that stuff.”
The tone has been the same as the Lions (11-3) prepared to face the Reading Express (11-3) tonight in Columbus’ first second-round playoff game in two seasons. The winner travels to Wyoming for the AIFA championship game July 26.
There has been no mixing messages a year after Columbus lost in the first round of the playoffs at the now-defunct Mississippi Mudcats.
“We got a banner, yeah, and we deserved it,” defensive lineman Franklin Lloyd said. “That’s over, like Coach says. It was fun for the week we won it, but we have other things to do now.”
Remembering what they did to win the banner likely won’t help the Lions tonight. They have yet to play the Reading Express this season. Columbus won 50-25 when the teams met in 2008, but Reading’s offense has improved while most of its massive defensive line is intact.
The Express boast the league’s top passing offense (238 yards per game) the second-best completion percentage (61 percent) behind quarterback Robert Flowers. And the average Reading defensive lineman is 6-foot-3, 272 pounds, making the Express one of the most physically intimidating teams in the league.
“Our speed is going to be key,” Lloyd said. “They’re big, but we’re faster. I think we’ll match up pretty well with our speed.”