The Columbus Lions continued their recent struggles Saturday night, getting flattened, 70-43, by the Alabama Hammers at the Columbus Civic Center to lose their third straight game.
Columbus (3-5) turned the ball over four more times and now has 21 turnovers in eight games and allowed the Hammers -- which came into the game averaging a league-high 56 points per game -- to score eight offensive touchdowns. The Hammers (6-2) added scores on a kickoff return and fumble return as well.
Columbus fell behind early, missing a long field goal on its opening drive before the Hammers' Russell Hill threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Grier, but the Lions scored 15 straight points to open up a 15-7 lead after the opening quarter.
The first score came on a 28-yard pass from Lee Chapple -- making his first start as a Lion and the fourth quarterback to start for Columbus this season -- to Jarmon Fortson. Debuting kicker Joshua Smith made the extra point and an uno on the subsequent kickoff to give the Lions an 8-7 advantage.
After forcing the Hammers to turn the ball over on downs, Columbus got a 21-yard touchdown pass from Chapple to Gerald Gales to go up 15-7.
However, Alabama scored 21 straight points -- while holding Columbus to two missed field goals and an interception of Chapple -- to go from being down 15-7 to up 28-15 with 1:47 remaining before halftime. Hill threw three touchdown passes to as many different receivers as he finished the first half 14-for-19 for 228 yards and four touchdowns.
Columbus did get a touchdown back before the break, as Chapple scored on a 20-yard run and Smith booted home the extra point to make it 28-22 Hammers at halftime. Chapple was 11-for-21 for 126 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the first 30 minutes.
The momentum of the game shifted for good in the opening minutes of the third quarter, when Alabama scored on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Hill to Grier and then got a 28-yard fumble return for a touchdown from ex-Lion Cortez Stubbs. That put the Hammers ahead, 42-22, with 10:39 to go in the third period and Columbus got no closer than 13 points the rest of the way.
The Lions' final chance to get back in the game came midway through the fourth quarter. With the score 56-43 Alabama, the Hammers faced a 4th-and-14 on the Columbus 20. Hill threw an incomplete pass, but the Lions were flagged for pass interference, giving Alabama a fresh set of downs at the Columbus 10. Two plays later, Hill found Mico McSwain for his seventh touchdown of the game to make it 63-43 Alabama with 4:20 left and salt the game away.
Hill finished the game 24-for-39 for 347 yards and seven touchdowns. Chapple was 18-for-32 for 242 yards, five touchdowns, two interceptions and a lost fumble.
Columbus hits the road next week, traveling to Richmond, Va., to take on the Richmond Raiders on May 25. Kickoff for that game is set for 7 p.m.
Saturday at Columbus Civic Center
Alabama 7 21 28 14--70
Columbus 15 7 14 7--43
Ala--Jeremy Grier 5 pass from Russell Hill (Chandler Brooks kick), 9:22.
Col--Jarmon Fortson 28 pass from Lee Chapple (Joshua Smith kick), 7:19.
Col--Smith Uno, 7:19.
Col--Gerald Gales 21 pass from Chapple (Smith kick), 1:06.
Ala--Mico McSwain 30 pass from Hill (Brooks kick), 9:11.
Ala--Charles McClain 23 pass from Hill (Brooks kick), 5:49.
Ala--Larry Shipp 23 pass from Hill (Brooks kick), 1:47.
Col--Chapple 20 run (Smith kick), 0:18.
Ala--Grier 11 pass from Hill (Brooks kick), 11:55.
Ala--Cortez Stubbs 28 fumble return (Brooks kick), 10:37.
Col--Fortson 30 pass from Chapple (Smith kick), 9:36.
Ala--McClain 54 kickoff return (Brooks kick), 8:36.
Col--Gales 11 pass from Chapple (Smith kick), 6:01.
Ala--McSwain 11 pass from Hill (Brooks kick), 3:30.
Col--Maurice Dupree 18 pass from Chapple (Smith kick), 11:55.
Ala--McSwain 10 pass from Hill (Brooks kick), 4:20.
Ala--Daniel Ross 2 run (Brooks kick), 0:08.