Columbus Lions coach Jason Gibson is confident his team can beat its in-state rival the Albany Panthers tonight in the semifinals of the Professional Indoor Football League playoffs if it can do one thing.
"We've got to avoid turnovers," Gibson said of his 6-6 team. "When we don't make turnovers, we win. We make turnovers, we lose."
Columbus is the No. 4 seed in the playoffs, and Albany is No. 1.
Albany won the Southern Indoor Football League championship last season and is 10-2 in 2012. It was the Lions who handed the Panthers their first loss this season.
The game is at 7:30 p.m. at the Albany Civic Center, where the Panthers have won nine in a row.
In the league's other playoff game, No. 2 seed Richmond plays host to No. 3 seed Louisiana on Monday night.
The Lions are coming off an impressive 76-63 victory over Knoxville at home, and Gibson said his team is mentally and physically ready for this game.
"We were banged up a lot entering the playoffs last season but not this time," he said. Columbus lost to Albany 75-61 in the playoffs last year.
The teams have played each other three times this season with Albany winning by scores of 57-40 and 57-54 and Columbus winning 58-56 on the last play.
Gibson said the teams know each other well. He doesn't expect many surprises. "Not on our part, anyway," he said.
He said the big advantage Albany has is experience, noting that Albany has a lot veterans with "tons of experience" in the playoffs while his squad is much younger.
"They know how to win." Gibson said of the Albany veterans.
In scoring offense, Richmond
leads the league with a 60.2 points per game average, but Columbus is right behind at 60.0.
Albany tops the league in scoring defense, allowing just 46.2 points per game while Columbus is fifth among six teams, giving up 59.4 points per game. Only Knoxville, which finished 1-11, has given up more at 64.8.
Gibson said his defense has looked a little better, lately, but "we've got to get a better rush on the passer."
And to win, Columbus must keep Albany's rush away from quarterback Randy Hippeard, who finished on top in the league in passing yards (3,280), passing touchdowns (72) and completion percentage (64.5 percent).
Two Columbus receivers, Maurice Dupree and London Crawford, went over 1,000 yards -- Dupree with 1,278 and Crawford with 1,044.