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Columbus Lions click, blow out Baltimore Mariners 82-19

The Columbus Lions did not waste much time making up for their first loss of the season.

Fullback Richard Fitzhugh scored four times, three receivers combined for five touchdowns and the Lions’ defense had five interceptions and blocked two field-goal attempts as Columbus rolled to an 82-19 victory over the Baltimore Mariners on Saturday at the Columbus Civic Center.

“Today was the day we just put everything together,” said Lions defensive back Ramone Nickerson, who had two interceptions. “It’s the fourth game of the season and we really wanted to show ourselves we worked out the kinks.”

The season’s biggest victory came a week after the Lions suffered their first loss of the season, 55-36, at the Florence Phantoms.

Columbus coach Jason Gibson said he had been let down by the offense’s inability to finish drives through the first three games of the season, but Saturday’s win left him with little to complain about but minor tweaks as the Lions improved to 3-1 overall.

“We still need discipline, that’s the biggest thing,” Gibson said. “We’re still turning the ball over too much. This was a good team we played, so I’ll take it, I’ll take the win. But we needed more discipline and that’s something we’re going to be working on.”

Columbus receiver Troy Bergeron led the receiving corps with three touchdowns and 72 yards. He caught two scoring passes from starting quarterback Bill Ashburn and another from Kevin Huff, who played the fourth quarter.

Receivers Gerald Gales and Jaworski Pollock each caught a touchdown pass from Ashburn in the first half.

“(Baltimore) was playing mostly man-to-man defense tonight, and that was good for our quarterbacks,” Bergeron said. “Hopefully we’ll keep seeing that, and our quarterbacks can keep finding their rhythm like they did.”

The Lions led 51-12 at halftime, giving up a safety on their third possession of the game, a 24-yard field goal and a 31-yard touchdown pass before the break.

The Mariners’ only score of the second half came on their first possession of the third quarter when starting quarterback Ernest Nemeth ran the ball in from the Columbus 1.

Linebacker Justen Rivers had both of the Lions’ blocked kicks and a sack.

Nickerson and Ryan Babb each had a pair of picks, and Chris Goffer added an interception. Babb ran one of his back for a 15-yard touchdown late in the third quarter.

“This week we practiced real hard and made it all about team,” Rivers said. “We had a lot more intensity all week at practice and in the game.

“We feed off each other, so when the offense scores we have to go out and make a big play or score.”

Lions kicker Carlos Martinez, who entered the game with a league-leading 48 points, added 16 points to his total with eight extra points, five unos and a 20-yard field goal.

Baltimore fell to 2-2 overall.

The Lions next play at Harrisburg (Penn.) on Saturday, when they hope to build on Saturday’s success.

“We’re going to try not to get cocky,” said Ashburn, who finished with five touchdown passes and two interceptions. “This was a good team and they had a bad day. That happened to us last week. We just need to take what was good here and build on that next week and keep that going for us.”

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