Columbus needs wins in bothof its final two games to earnplayoff berth
By Joseph Myers
Special To The Ledger-Enquirer
The Professional Indoor Football League's playoffs don't officially start until June 28, but for the Columbus Lions, the playoff games have already started.
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Columbus (4-6) -- which hosts the Albany Panthers (5-4) Saturday night at the Columbus Civic Center at 7:30 p.m. -- needed to win its last three regular-season games to qualify for the playoffs and the Lions took the first step last week by beating the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks, 59-48.
However, Columbus must now face the Panthers, who have won the last three meetings and four of the last five between the two teams.
"Every game is a playoff game for us now," Lions coach Jason Gibson said. "It makes it fun, that's for sure. If we keep winning, we'll get in. If we don't, we're out. We let some games slip away from us as the season has gone along and now we're having to deal with it."
The Panthers are coming off a 69-63, triple-overtime win over the Richmond Raiders in Albany last week. It was just the second win in the last six games for the Panthers, who started the season 3-0 after winning the PIFL title in 2012.
"It's really a crap shoot," said Gibson, whose team last played Albany on March 16, when the Panthers won 40-37 in Albany. "You look at film and you have to just throw it out a little bit because you have to figure out if you're a better team or a worse team. I know we're a better team, especially on the defensive line, but we've been bit by the injury bug awful bad. We did watch them some on film, but it's hard to do much with it when so many different people are playing now than were playing back then."
Speaking of the injury bug, the status of the Lions' quarterback position is still up in the air. Lee Chapple suffered a concussion two weeks ago and missed the
Lions' home win over Lehigh Valley last week. His status for Saturday night's game is still uncertain and if he can't go, Marcus Jones will get the start.
"We're waiting to hear from the doctors," Gibson said. "We'll see whether (Chapple) will play. Even if (Jones) doesn't start at quarterback, he might just start at wide receiver for us. He'll be out there somewhere."
Along with his 1,017 passing yards and 18 touchdowns, Jones is third in the PIFL with 214 rushing yards and second in rushing touchdowns with 12 and has caught five passes for 80 yards and a touchdown as well.
"We've got wide receivers playing defensive back and have been forced to make all kinds of moves shuffling players in and out," said Gibson, who has used four quarterbacks and four kickers this season. "But this is the time of the year where everybody's banged up somehow and you just have to step up and separate yourselves."
The Lions made several personnel moves this week, placing defensive back Ramone Nickerson on the suspended list, moving wide receiver Cody Pearcy -- a Glenwood alumnus -- to the AFL-Exempt list and waiving defensive lineman Derrick Crawford.
Pearcy, who was re-signed by the Cleveland Gladiators earlier this week, played one game with the Lions and caught two passes for 50 yards and one touchdown. Crawford saw action in two games, finishing with 2.5 tackles (two solo, one assist) and half a sack. Nickerson has yet to see action with the Lions this season.
Newcomers to the roster are defensive back Devon Terry (6-1, 195) and defensive lineman Jacoby Thomas (6-1, 250), both of whom were signed this week and played collegiately at Troy.
"We got our kicking situation fixed," said Gibson. "If we can have no turnovers, make our extra points and half of our field goals, we should be in good shape. I hope we're peaking at the right time. If we don't have any turnovers, we should win the game. Our defense is opportunistic, so I think we'll get some chances from them. We just have to not turn the ball over ourselves."
Notes: If you can't make it to the game, you can listen to it through a link on the Lions' Web site, www.columbuslions.net. Click on the "Listen Live" link on the right-hand side of the page. Coverage starts at 7:25 p.m. Columbus has two of the three current PIFL Players of the Week in Defensive Player of the Week Joshua Gipson and co-Offensive Player of the Week Marcus Jones. A defensive lineman, Gipson had a sack, two passes broken up and an interception he returned 20 yards for a touchdown. Jones accounted for six touchdowns (four rushing, two passing) and 246 yards of total offense (151 passing, 95 rushing) in the Lions' 59-48 win over Lehigh Valley. After tonight's game, the Lions are off for a week before finishing the regular season June 22 at Albany. Kickoff at the Albany Civic Center is set for 7:30 p.m.