The Columbus Lions came into Saturday night's game at the Columbus Civic Center against the Alabama Hammers riding a two-game winning streak while Alabama was still seeking its first win of the 2012 Professional Indoor Football League season.
But in the end, it was the Hammers that looked like the team that had been winning football games, as they used a strong first half, three turnovers and one final stand to post a 63-60 win over the Lions on "Military Appreciation Night."
Columbus had a game-winning 23-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Randy Hippeard to London Crawford with no time remaining nullified by an offensive pass interference penalty and Hippeard's pass on an untimed down fell incomplete to allow the Hammers to escape with the win.
Alabama played without leading receiver Charles McLain, who had 12 catches for 187 yards and three touchdowns in the Hammers' first two games. McLain missed the game due to a previous personal commitment, but it sure didn't look like the Hammers missed him in the first half, as Mico McSwain had five catches for 124 yards and three touchdowns in the opening two quarters to help the Hammers take a 40-34 lead into the locker room at halftime.
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Columbus was able to match the Hammers score for score through the first quarter-plus, including getting a 58-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Anthony Merritt on the game's opening kickoff, before Al Donaldson picked off Hippeard to give Alabama the momentum.
The Hammers kicked a field goal on their subsequent drive to take a 31-28 lead, but Columbus replied with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Hippeard to Maurice Dupree to go up 34-31. The momentum shift was short-lived, though, as Alabama blocked the extra point and Kem Oti returned it for two points to keep the Hammers within 34-33 with 39 seconds to go before halftime.
Alabama got one last score before the break when quarterback Arvell Nelson found McSwain for a 34-yard touchdown to send the Hammers into halftime with a 40-34 advantage. Nelson -- who was intercepted four times by the Lions in their meeting in Huntsville, Ala., last week -- was 10-for-15 for 204 yards and three touchdowns in the first half.
Meanwhile, Hippeard completed just four of his first nine passes and was 12-for-22 for 133 yards with two interceptions, both by Donald
son. London Crawford was his top target with five catches for 54 yards and Dupree had three catches for 35 yards and three scores.
Columbus came out firing in the third quarter, outscoring Alabama 20-9 to take a 54-49 lead into the fourth quarter, and the Lions held a 60-56 advantage with 1:14 to go in the game after Dupree caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from Hippeard.
The Hammers would have the last laugh, though, as McSwain and Nelson hooked up on a 4-yard touchdown pass with 26 seconds remaining to put Alabama up 63-60.
The Lions are off next week and return to action April 14, hosting the Louisiana Swashbucklers. Kickoff at the Columbus Civic Center is set for 7:30 p.m.
At Columbus Civic Center
Alabama 14 26 9 14--63
Columbus 21 13 20 6--60
Col - Anthony Merritt 58 kickoff return (Jason Wirtz kick), 14:28.
Ala - Mico McSwain 18 pass from Arvell Nelson (Jaime Whitworth kick), 13:31.
Col - Maurice Dupree 14 pass from Randy Hippeard (Wirtz kick), 8:27.
Ala - Nelson 6 run (Whitworth kick), 4:47.
Col - Merritt 5 run (Kick failed), 2:14.
Col - Derek Patterson tackled in end zone on kickoff, 2:14.
Ala - Nelson 1 run (Whitworth kick), 11:58.
Col - Dupree 11 pass from Hippeard (Wirtz kick), 9:35.
Ala - McSwain 17 pass from Nelson (Whitworth kick), 8:23.
Ala - Whitworth 26 FG, 3:56.
Col - Dupree 10 pass from Hippeard (Kick blocked), 0:39.
Ala - Kem Oti blocked extra point return, 0:39.
Ala - McSwain 34 pass from Nelson (Whitmore kick), 0:25.
Ala - Whitworth 28 FG, 8:30.
Col - Hippeard 4 run (Wirtz kick), 6:05.
Col - Dupree 25 pass from Hippeard (Kick failed), 2:12.
Ala - Nelson 29 run (Pass failed), 0:52.
Col - Hippeard 16 run (Wirtz kick), 0:00.
Ala - Darian Payne 22 interception return (Whitworth kick), 10:22.
Col - Dupree 23 pass from Hippeard (Run failed), 1:14.
Ala - McSwain 4 pass from Nelson (Whitmore kick), 0:26.