McCoy placed on 'left squad' list
By Joseph Myers
Special To The Ledger-Enquirer
The Columbus Lions will be starting their third quarterback of the season when it hosts the Nashville Venom on Saturday night.
Chris McCoy, who was 11-for-28 for 108 yards in last week's 39-31 victory over Alabama, got into an argument with coach Jason Gibson at practice Tuesday night, left practice and didn't return.
McCoy wasn't at practice Wednesday or Thursday, and the Lions placed McCoy on the league's "Left Squad" list, meaning he hasn't officially been released, but he isn't eligible to dress for games, either.
It was the second straight week McCoy and Gibson clashed in practice before McCoy left practice early and didn't return. However, last week, McCoy started and took every snap in the Lions' win over the Hammers.
"Everybody's competing for starting positions and everybody wants to start," Gibson said. "Sometimes good football players don't get to start and that gets to them a little bit. Some of the best practices I've ever had have come as a result of settling a dispute with a player in a good manner. Obviously, we didn't get that opportunity in this case."
With a two-game lead over the Alabama Hammers and Georgia Fire and three games to go in the regular season, the Lions are in control when it comes to making the Professional Indoor Football League playoffs.
However, the Lions (5-4) face a tough closing stretch, starting Saturday night with Venom (7-2), which lead the American Conference. Kickoff at The Columbus Civic Center is scheduled for 7 p.m.
"Nashville is a great, physical team," Gibson said. "It will be a fun challenge to have them here at home. We want to finish the season 6-0 at home, but this is a league where anybody can win on any given week. There's a
lot of parity."
McCoy will be replaced by either Luke Halpin, who threw for almost 1,600 yards and eight touchdowns last fall at Division II member Arkansas Tech, or John Church, who has spent time at Delaware, a Football Championship Subdivision program. Both were signed June 5 to either push or unseat McCoy and spent time with the Lions' No. 1 offense this week.
"Both of them have looked OK," said Gibson. "(Halpin) is only 6 feet tall, but Doug Flutie was small, too. He has good zip on the ball."
The Venom won the first meeting between the two teams, 58-44, in Nashville on May 25. But that was the Lions' first game without starting quarterback Antwon Young, who had torn his ACL in Columbus' previous game, a loss at Alabama.
With a new quarterback under center, Gibson may call the number of fullback Kendrick Perry early and often. Perry won the PIFL's Offensive Player of the Week award this week after scoring three touchdowns and totalling 78 yards (58 rushing, 20 receiving) in the win over Alabama. Perry -- who has multiple touchdowns in eight of the Lions' nine games -- is already just three yards shy of breaking the PIFL single-season record for rushing yards (439), which he set back in 2012, with three games still to go.
"We've got to be physical if we want to win," Gibson said. "Nashville is one of the most athletics teams in the league and I think we'll need to take it to them. We have to set the tone, especially our defense. It's going to be a challenge and I'm looking forward to it."