Faced with a short week following their 42-21 victory over the Richmond (Va.) Raiders last weekend, the Columbus Lions faced what could've been a tough test in the form of the Georgia Fire on Friday night at the Columbus Civic Center.
However, instead of a tough test, the Lions raced out to a 39-point halftime lead en route to dousing the Fire, 71-34, for their second straight win.
"You win championships with your defense, but tonight the offense and defense fed off each other," said Lions head coach Jason Gibson. "It was a great win, but it was a three-quarter win. It wasn't a four-quarter win, but you have to beat your division foes and that's what we did tonight."
The win pulls the Lions (2-1) within one-half game of the idol Nashville (Tenn.) Venom for first place in the PIFL's American Division as the season hits the one-quarter mark for Columbus.
Columbus never trailed in the game, getting an uno from kicker Craig Camay on the opening kickoff and scoring on its first play from scrimmage on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Antwon Young to Earl Alexander to lead 8-0. Georgia (1-1) pulled back to within 8-6 on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Chris Mitchell to Antwontis Cutts, but the Lions scored the game's next 31 points to open up a 39-6 advantage late in the first half. The scoring outburst included two more touchdown passes from Young, a touchdown run by Kendrick Perry, an interception return for a score by cornerback Damian Daniels and three extra points, a field goal and an uno from Camay.
Columbus eventually took a 52-13 lead into the locker room at halftime even though the Lions had the ball for just 9:14 of the 30 minutes in the first half. Columbus also ran only 13 offensive plays, but racked up 152 total yards and scored six offensive touchdowns and had 10 first downs on those 13 plays. Young was 7-for-9 for 135 yards and five touchdowns (to three different receivers) with no sacks or interceptions. Jarmon Fortson had three catches for 75 yards and two TD's and Tiron Morris caught two passes for 21 yards and two scores to lead the Lions' receiving corps.
"We've got four great receivers," said Young, who was the PIFL's Most Valuable Player in 2012 when he played for Richmond. "It's a luxury to have them plus (running back Kendrick Perry). They make it really easy to do my job."
The Lions' defense also stood out in the first half, as Daniels picked off two passes -- including career interception No. 99 to set a new indoor football record for most interceptions in career -- and linebacker Justen Rivers blocked two more field goals. Rivers has three blocked kicks in the last two games for Columbus, which allowed only 147 yards on Georgia's 32 offensive plays (an average of 4.6 yards per play) and 20:46 of possession in the first half.
"We wanted to come out and have another good game," said Daniels. "We knew we had a good gameplan (for Georgia), but we didn't want to get complacent. I think we're finding our stride defensively, but we're not there yet. We just want to keep getting better every week."
With a huge halftime lead, the second half was a foregone conclusion and Columbus cruised to the victory, never allowing the Fire to get closer than 37 points in the final two quarters. Young went 11-for-15 for 216 yards and seven touchdowns in less than three quarters of action.
Friday at Columbus Civic Center
Georgia 6 7 7 14--34
Columbus 18 34 13 6--71
Col - Craig Camay Uno, 15:00.
Col - Earl Alexander 40 pass from Antwon Young (Camay kick), 7:48.
Geo - Antwontis Cutts 16 pass from Chris Mitchell (Kick failed), 5:54.
Col - Jarmon Fortson 40 pass from Young (Camay kick), 5:13.
Col - Camay 30 FG, 0:25.
Col - Damian Daniels 28 interception return (Kick failed), 13:57.
Col - Kendrick Perry 3 run (Camay kick), 10:13.
Col - Tirone Morris 18 pass from Young (Camay kick), 3:58.
Col - Camay Uno, 3:58.
Geo - Johnny Lester 21 pass from Mitchell (Ryan Gates kick), 0:54.
Col - Fortson 19 pass from Young (Kick failed), 0:27.
Col - Morris 3 pass from Young (Camay kick), 0:06.
Col - Perry 13 pass from Young (Kick failed), 11:19.
Geo - J. Lester 18 pass from Mitchell (Gates kick), 9:04.
Col - Alexander 45 pass from Young (Camay kick), 7:56.
Geo - Xavier Stinson 4 pass from Mitchell (Gates kick), 8:44.
Col - Alexander 28 pass from Chris McCoy (Kick failed), 2:33.
Geo - Stinson 2 run (Gates kick), 1:00.