London Crawford ran for two touchdowns, caught and threw a touchdown pass to help lead the Columbus Lions to a 76-63 victory over the Knoxville Nighthawks Saturday night at the Columbus Civic Center.
With the win, Columbus (6-6) snapped a franchise-worst three-game losing streak, while sending Knoxville (1-11) to its fifth straight defeat. The Lions will be the 4 seed for the Professional Indoor Football League playoffs next weekend.
The Lions will travel to Albany (10-2) to take on the Panthers Saturday.
Columbus came out fired up, holding the Nighthawks to a 29-yard field goal by Alex Walls on Knoxville's opening possession before scoring on its first play from scrimmage. Quarterback Randy Hippeard hit Gerald Gales with a 30-yard touchdown pass and Trey Crum's extra point made it 7-3 Lions with 8:59 to go in the first quarter.
Derek Douglas picked off Knoxville quarterback Russell Hill and Columbus cashed in on the turnover, scoring on a 5-yard run by Crawford to go up 14-3. The Nighthawks drove to the Columbus 1-yard line on their next possession, but the Lions' Ramon Broadway scooped up a fumble and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown to put Columbus up 21-3 with 14:09 remaining in the first half.
Hill found Justin Craig for a pair of touchdown passes covering 18 and 15 yards to try and get Knoxville back into the game, but Hippeard hooked up with Maurice Dupree on a 7-yard touchdown pass and Crum made 22 and 43-yard field goals to send the Lions into the locker room with a 34-23 lead.
Broadway made his presence felt again on the opening kickoff of the
second half, returning it 49 yards for another touchdown to push the Lions' advantage to 41-23. Cortez Stubbs intercepted Hill to give Columbus the ball back and Crawford scored his second rushing touchdown of the game on a 1-yard run to make it 48-23 with 5:47 to go in the third quarter.
Knoxville scored on a 13-yard touchdown pass but Lions backup quarterback Marcus Jones - seeing his first action of the season - threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Crawford to re-establish a comfortable lead at 55-30 with 13:43 remaining in the game. The Nighthawks got back-to-back touchdowns -- sandwiched around a successful onsides kick - to pull back to within 55-44 with 10:31 left, but Jones directed another pair of scoring drives, hitting Gales with a 15-yard touchdown pass and Dupree with a 1-yard score to help the Lions match Knoxville score for score.
Knoxville got no closer than 11 points the rest of the way and the Lions added one final touchdown when Crawford - playing quarterback in the Wildcat formation - found Gales for an 8-yard touchdown pass with 10 seconds to go to seal the victory.
At Columbus Civic Center
Knoxville 3 20 7 33--63
Columbus 14 20 14 28--76
Knox - Alex Walls 29 FG, 9:52.
Col - Gerald Gales 30 pass from Randy Hippeard (Trey Crum kick), 8:59.
Col - London Crawford 5 run (Crum kick), 3:14.
Col - Ramon Broadway 45 fumble return (Crum kick), 14:09.
Knox - Justin Craig 18 pass from Russell Hill (Kick blocked), 6:02.
Col - Maurice Dupree 7 pass from Hippeard (Crum kick), 4:20.
Knox - Craig 15 pass from Hill (Walls kick), 2:07.
Col - Crum 22 FG, 0:21.
Knox - Ryan Schuck 8 pass from Hill (Walls kick), 0:07.
Col - Crum 43 FG, 0:00.
Col - Broadway 49 kickoff return (Crum kick), 14:38.
Col - Crawford 1 run (Crum kick), 5:47.
Knox - Schuck 13 pass from Hill (Walls kick), 0:58.
Col - Crawford 7 pass from Marcus Jones (Crum kick), 13:43.
Knox - Schuck 7 pass from Hill (Walls kick), 12:02.
Knox - Hill 18 pass from Hill (Walls kick), 10:31.
Col - Gales 15 pass from Jones (Crum kick), 7:47.
Knox - Craig 40 pass from Hill (Walls kick), 6:03.
Col - Dupree 1 pass from Jones (Crum kick), 1:51.
Knox - Ryan McDaniel 1 pass from Hill (Pass failed), 0:24.
Col - Gales 8 pass from Crawford (Crum kick), 0:10.
Knox - Craig 22 pass from Hill (No PAT), 0:00.