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Lions come back against top defense

The Columbus Lions posted 15 second-half points against the American Indoor Foostball Association’s best defense Saturday in a road 35-33 win against the Harrisburg (Pa.) Stampede.

Fullback Richard Fitzhugh scored twice on 1-yard rushes for Columbus, receivers Gerald Gales and Troy Bergeron each caught a touchdown pass from Bill Ashburn, and kicker Carlos Martinez accounted for 10 points in the game.

Trailing 23-20 at halftime, the Lions used Bergeron’s 18-yard scoring reception, an extra point, an uno from Martinez and a 1-yard rushing score from Fitzhugh while limiting the Stampede to a field goal and a touchdown to complete their rally and improve to 4-1 overall.

Lions coach Jason Gibson said the offense still is developing and has areas to improve.

“Defense played good, but offense is still just turning the ball over too much and making mistakes,” he said. “We can’t keep turning the ball over like we did. To tell you the truth, to play as bad as we did against a defense as good as that, I’ll take it, but our offense has to improve.”

Columbus lost a fumble, allowed two interceptions and missed two field goals while going 2-for-3 in the red zone.

The Lions’ Darin Damron blocked a 31-yard field goal attempt early in the fourth quarter and Dexter Reid recovered the ball to set up a 25-yard drive that ended with Fitzhugh’s second touchdown, giving Columbus a 35-26 lead.

The Stampede’s Malik Brown scored on a 1-yard run on Harrisburg’s next drive to cut the score to 35-33. The Stampede’s Marcus Sargent intercepted Ashburn on the first play of the Lions’ next possession, setting up his team with a chance to retake the lead with about a minute remaining in the game and the ball at midfield.

Columbus defensive lineman Mike Berry sacked Stampede quarterback A.J. Roque on the first play of the drive, which forced Harrisburg to attempt a field goal with 25 seconds remaining. Andy Eminger’s 43-yard attempt was wide left and Fitzhugh ran out the clock with a run on the Lions’ next possession.

“Last year,. our big thing was offense, but we’re doing it on defense this season,” Gibson said.

Columbus led 3-0 on a Martinez field goal from midfield less than five minutes into the game. Harrisburg used a a 5-yard pass to former Lions player Silas Daniels and a 42-yard Eminger field goal to take the lead before Columbus’ Gerald Gales tied the game 10-10 on a 30-yard pass from Ashburn.

Harrisburg finished the first quarter ahead 17-10 on a 30-yard touchdown pass to Rafael Cooper with 3:18 left in the period and built on the advantage with a 1-yard Brown run in the opening minutes of the second.

Fitzhugh’s first score of the game came with 14 seconds left in the first half, and the Lions recovered a fumble with 11 seconds left before the break to set up a 35-yard field goal from Martinez as time expired.

The Stampede, despite allowing a league-low 32 points per game, dropped to 1-3 overall.

Columbus 10 10 8 7—35

Harrisburg 17 6 3 7—33

First Quarter

C – Carlos Martinez 35 field goal, 10:44

H – Andy Eminger 52-yard field goal, 8:31

H – Silas Daniels 5 pass from A.J. Roque (Eminger kick), 4:45

C – Gerald Gales 30 pass from Bill Ashburn (Martinez kick), 3:18

H – Rafael Cooper 30 pass from Roque (Eminger kick), 1:10

Second Quarter

H – Brown 1 run (kick failed), 13:45

C – Fitzhugh 1 run (Martinez kick), :14

C – Martinez 35 field goal, :00

Third Quarter

H – Eminger 21 field goal, 10:30

C – Troy Bergeron 18 pass from Ashburn (Martinez kick), 2:28

C – Martinez uno, 2:04

Fourth Quarter

C – Fitzhugh 1 run (Martinez kick), 6:04

H – Brown 1 run (Eminger kick), 1:29

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