If the Columbus Lions are to knock off the Richmond Raiders Saturday in their home opener for the 2014 season, they have to get defensive.
"We have to get some stops on defense," said Lions coach Jason Gibson, whose team is playing its 100th game in franchise history tonight. "We only had one stop in the whole game last week (a 71-54 road loss to the Harrisburg (Pa.) Stampede). We also need to outrun the other team. We didn't do that on the defensive side of the ball and it showed. We have to outhustle them if we want to win."
Kickoff for the game at the Columbus Civic Center is scheduled for 7 p.m.
In the Lions' game against Harrisburg, they held a 10-point lead late in the first half, but that was when Stampede quarterback E.J. Nemeth took over. He scored five rushing touchdowns in the second half and finished the game with a Professional Indoor Football League-record eight rushing touchdowns and 10 total scores as the Stampede outscored the Lions 40-20 in the final two quarters to earn the win.
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"(Nemeth) has a good game," said Gibson, who is 64-35 in seven-plus seasons as Lions head coach. "When he gets loose on the edge, he can be hard to stop. Our defensive backs did their job, but I thought our defensive line was a little dead and couldn't get a hold of (Nemeth). Our offense played well. (Lions quarterback Antwon Young) threw seven touchdowns for us."
Young -- the 2012 PIFL Most Valuable Player when he played for Richmond -- was only 16-for-31 in the game, but he made his completions count as he finished with 313 yards and seven touchdowns. Fullback Kendrick Perry -- the PIFL's all-time leading rusher -- added 30 yards on the ground as well as four catches for 110 yards and two scores in the loss.
After a 21-hour round-trip bus ride to Pennsylvania, Gibson said he and his team almost can't express how happy they are to be back in the friendly confines of the Civic Center.
"Tuesday was the first day we've practiced on turf all year and I do think that affected us when we went to Harrisburg," said Gibson. "I think it hurt us to have to go on the road without having practiced inside. But we've had several practices inside now and it definitely is nice to be back at home."
Like Columbus (0-1), Richmond (0-1) is coming off a season-opening road loss last week. However, unlike Columbus, the Raiders were on the wrong end of a one-sided thrashing, as the expansion Trenton (N.J.) Freedom smacked Richmond, 52-17, in New Jersey. Trenton raced out to a 34-0 lead in the first half before the Raiders finally got on the scoreboard with a field goal just before halftime.
Gibson said he doesn't put much stock in the scoreline of last week's game between the Freedom and Raiders and that he expects Richmond to be a challenge for his squad.
"That loss means nothing," said Gibson. "They always have had a good coach and a good team. Just because they took a bad loss in the first game doesn't make them a bad team.".
Richmond quarterback Malik White was 21-for-32 for 243 yards and two touchdowns in the game, but he did throw an interception and was sacked three times. Hakim Moore was White's top target, as he caught nine passes for 132 yards and a touchdown.