The gauntlet of formidable foes continues for the Columbus Lions.
After dropping their last game on the road at Lehigh Valley April 9 in a heartbreaking 60-54 last-second win for the Steelhawks, the Lions return to home turf at the Columbus Civic Center to face the Boone, N.C.-based High Country Grizzlies.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Saturday at the Civic Center, with tickets still available.
It’s a tough early-season test for the 2-2 Lions. They are tied for fourth place with the Grizzlies in the National Arena League standings, which is the fourth and final seed come playoff time in the NAL in two months.
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Columbus and High Country have the same setbacks on the season: losses to undefeated Jacksonville and 4-1 Lehigh Valley mar both teams’ records. The Lions and Grizzlies dropped six-point decisions to the Steelhawks; however, High Country fell 68-21 to Jacksonville at home on Apr. 9, while Columbus stayed competitive against the Sharks in the season opener, losing 56-41 on March 17.
Looking at the tale of the tape, the Lions enter Saturday’s game with the more formidable offense of the two teams, while the Grizzlies have the better defense statistically. The Lions lead the NAL in points per game, scoring a touch over 60 points each contest, while High Country is fourth at 55 points a game. Columbus is allowing an average of 46 points to their opponents this year, fifth in the eight-team NAL, while the Grizzlies are third in scoring defense, giving up 38 points a contest. In terms of yardage, Columbus has outgained High Country by 53 yards a game – 260 to 207 – while the Lions are last in the league in defensive yardage allowed, giving up 256 yards per game, with High Country allowing an average of 203 yards each game.
On the Lions’ individual side of the ball, quarterback Darren Daniel continues to be a pleasant surprise for head coach Jason Gibson and Columbus. He ranks third in the NAL – only behind veteran arena football quarterbacks in Lehigh Valley’s Warren Smith and Jacksonville’s Tommy Grady – with 223 yards per contest. Daniel is tied for second in the league with 21 passing touchdowns, six behind Smith; Smith has also played one more game than Daniel, however. The Columbus wide receiver duo of Michael Reeve and Jarmon Fortson are currently first and seventh in the league, respectively, in points per game average.
Some familiar faces will also return to the Civic Center on the High Country side of the ball. The team is coached by Josh Resignalo, who previously served as the Lions’ defensive coordinator. Damian Daniels, the all-time indoor football interception leader and a former standout cornerback for Columbus, enters his first season coaching as High Country’s defensive coordinator. Newly acquired defensive back Roshawn Marshall will be playing in his second game this year in Columbus as a member of the visiting team. The former Lion standout DB was with the Georgia Firebirds when they fell 63-50 in Columbus on April 2.