Few things seemed out of the ordinary as the Columbus Lions hosted the Louisiana Swashbucklers on Sunday at the Civic Center.
Columbus defensive back Damian Daniels had two interceptions, the Lions defensive line accounted for six sacks and Columbus quarterback Chris McCoy passed for more than 200 yards and five touchdowns.
This time, though, there was a trophy at the end.
The Lions (10-3) defeated the Swashbucklers (6-7) 68-13 in the Southern Indoor Football League championship game to claim the first title in team history and bring an end to three seasons’ worth of postseason frustration. Since falling in the 2007 World Indoor Football League championship game, the Lions have never made it beyond the semifinals.
“This has been the longest four years of my life,” said Daniels, a four-year Lions starter and the 2010 SIFL Defensive Player of the Year. “This moment has been a long time coming for this team.”
McCoy, the SIFL Offensive Player of the Year, was 18-for-28 passing for 228 yards. Lonnell Dewalt had three touchdown receptions, including one from backup quarterback Chris Malleo, Gerald Gales added two scores and Tirone Morris added another.
The outcome was hardly any better for Louisiana on offense as the Lions had three interceptions and recovered a fumble in the end zone while limiting starting quarterback Freddie Harrison to a 11-for-21 passing performance with 108 yards.
And Columbus won the special teams battle, too. Kicker and SIFL Special Teams Player of the Year Trey Crum accounted for 14 points as Louisiana kicker Blake Bercegeay was 0-for-4 on field-goal attempts.
“We pulled it all off convincingly,” Lions linebacker Ryan Babb said. “We let everyone know Columbus deserved this championship.”
The Lions jumped out to a 14-0 lead on a pair of 24-yard Dewalt touchdown receptions, and it was then Babb said he knew Columbus would win.
“There was never really any nervousness, but after the first quarter we knew we had it,” Babb said. “We always go one drive at a time, just chip away like that, and we’re always all right when we do that.”
If Babb’s feelings were not shared by his teammates at the end of the first quarter, Anthony Merritt’s 3-yard touchdown run just three seconds into the second period gave them some weight. And Columbus did not waste time pulling away as it needed only seven total plays in the period to score three times, taking a 34-7 lead into halftime on a pair of touchdown passes to Gales.
The Swashbucklers’ sole first-half score came on a 14-yard Harrison pass to Henry Hunter. Bercegeay missed on the point-after attempt but brought the Swashbucklers to within 14 points of the Lions by scoring an uno on the following kickoff. It was the last time Louisiana made much progress cutting into the Lions’ lead.
Columbus scored on each of its six second-half drives and recovered a fumble in the Louisiana end zone.
Louisiana, which switched out Harrison at quarterback for receiver Sammy Knight for much of the fourth quarter, couldn’t muster little offense, and the Swashbucklers’ only second-half score came on an end-to-end kickoff return by Marcus Wilridge followed by a failed two-point conversion attempt.
The game ended a three-year championship streak for the Swashbucklers, which had won the 2007 and 2008 Intense Football League titles and the 2009 SIFL title. But Louisiana coach Michael Warren, who took over midseason and turned Louisiana around, said he felt his team could climb back next season.
“Columbus just took it to us all night,” Louisiana coach Michael Warren said. “My guys took it on the chin, and they admitted Columbus was the better team tonight. But we’ll be back and ready again next year.”
Sunday at the Civic Center
Louisiana 0 7 0 6 — 13
Columbus 14 20 10 24 — 68
C — Lonnell Dewalt 24 pass from Chris McCoy (Trey Crum kick), 4:58
C — Dewalt 24 pass from McCoy (Crum kick), :41
C — Anthony Merritt 3 run (Crum kick), 14:57
L — Henry Hunter 14 pass from Freddie Harrison (kick failed), 10:11
L — Blake Bercegeay uno, 10:11
C — Gerald Gales 34 pass from McCoy (pass failed), 8:25
C — Gales 18 pass from McCoy (Crum kick), 2:39
C — Crum 28 field goal, 8:56
C — Merritt 3 run (Crim kick), 4:00
C — Crum 38 field goal, 12:53
L — Marcus Wilridge 50 kickoff return (pass failed), 12:45
C — Tirone Morris 16 pass from McCoy (Crum kick), 11:13
C — Crum uno, 11:13
C — Dewalt 23 pass from Chris Malleo (kick failed), 7:25
C — Lardester Green fumble recovery (Crum kick), 4:41
Team records: Louisiana 6-7; Columbus 10-3