Columbus Lions kicker Trey Crum has said he lives by the motto, "It's not how you start, but how you finish."
Crum finished about as well as anyone could Sunday afternoon at the Columbus Civic Center, nailing a 54-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Lions to a 58-56 victory over the previously unbeaten Albany Panthers.
"It's like when a pitcher is on the mound with the bases loaded and two outs," said Crum, who also made a 49-yard field goal in the game, the two longest field goals in the Professional Indoor Football League this season. "You just have to find a zone and block everything else out."
Crum's field goal pulled out a win for the Lions (4-3) after it looked like Albany (6-1) had completed an improbable comeback. Following a 15-yard touchdown pass from Randy Hippeard to London Crawford and Crum's extra point, Columbus held a 55-41 lead with just 1:31 remaining in the game.
Albany responded with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Darnell Kennedy to Antwontis Cutts and Geoff Boyer's extra point made it 55-48 with 54 seconds left. The Panthers tried an onside kick, but the Lions recovered and it looked like they'd be able to run out the clock.
However, following three runs up the middle, Crum missed a 32-yard field goal and the Panthers scored on a 30-yard pass from Kennedy to Cutts with 18 seconds remaining. Boyer's extra point tied the game at 55 and on the subsequent kickoff, he nailed an uno to give the Panthers a 56-55 lead.
The Lions started on their 5-yard line and completed two passes to move to the 11 before an incomplete pass left 2 seconds on the clock. Following a timeout, Crum
lined up and made the field goal, sending the Civic Center crowd into a massive celebration that lasted long after the game ended.
"It goes to show you that in arena football, it's not over until the clock runs out," Columbus coach Jason Gibson said. "I don't care if it's by one point or 30, it's a win and I'll take it. (Crum) make such a huge difference for us. When we need him the most, he comes through for us and we needed him tonight."
Columbus took the game's opening kickoff and scored on its second play from scrimmage when Hippeard and wide receiver Maurice Dupree hooked up for a 23-yard touchdown pass just 1:23 into the game. Crum made the extra point and nailed an uno on the subsequent kickoff to give the Lions an early 8-0 advantage.
Cortez Stubbs intercepted Kennedy in the end zone on the Panthers' opening drive and Columbus widened its lead to 15-0 on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Hippeard to Dupree midway through the first quarter. The Lions had a chance to extend their lead even more, as Lawon Scott recovered a Derrick Wimbush fumble on Albany's first play from scrimmage, but an illegal blocking penalty and a missed field goal kept it 15-0 Columbus.
Albany swung the momentum in its favor by getting an 11-yard touchdown pass from Kennedy to Cutts and a stop of the Lions on their own 11-yard line, but the Columbus defense rose to the occasion. Forcing a field-goal attempt, the Lions blocked the kick and Stubbs returned it to the Panthers' 15-yard line. Three plays later, Gerald Gales caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Hippeard to make it 22-7 Lions with 9:52 to go before halftime.
Wimbush scored on a 2-yard run to get the Panthers back to within 22-14, but Hippeard hooked up with Dupree for a 30-yard touchdown pass on the Lions' subsequent drive to push their lead back out to 29-14 with just over five minutes remaining in the half.
The Panthers got a 40-yard field goal from Geoff Boyer to trim the Columbus lead to 29-17. The Lions had one final scoring chance before the break, but a personal foul penalty forced them to settle for a field-goal attempt, which was wide right.
Columbus now starts a three-game road swing, starting Saturday at the Knoxville Nighthawks (1-6). The Nighthawks earned their first win of the season Saturday night, beating the Alabama Hammers, 64-61, in double overtime.
Sunday at Columbus Civic Center
Albany 7 10 10 29--56
Columbus 15 14 10 19--58
Col - Maurice Dupree 23 pass from Randy Hippeard (Trey Crum kick), 13:37.
Col - Crum Uno, 13:37.
Col - Dupree 12 pass from Hippeard (Crum kick), 7:22.
Alb - Antwontis Cutts 11 pass from Darnell Kennedy (Geoff Boyer kick), 2:07.
Col - Gerald Gales 9 pass from Hippeard (Crum kick), 9:52.
Alb - Derrick Wimbush 2 run (Boyer kick), 6:58.
Col - Dupree 30 pass from Hippeard (Crum kick), 5:10.
Alb - Boyer 40 FG, 1:59.
Alb - Boyer 32 FG, 12:22.
Alb - Boyer Uno, 12:22.
Col - Gales 40 pass from Hippeard (Crum kick), 9:48.
Alb - Boyer 45 FG, 7:11.
Col - Crum 49 FG, 2:21.
Alb - Boyer 41 FG, 0:00.
Col - Crum 26 FG, 11:09.
Alb - Cutts 30 pass from Kennedy (Boyer kick), 10:00.
Col - Hippeard 1 run (Crum kick), 6:48.
Alb - Clenton Rafe 15 pass from Kennedy (Boyer kick), 5:52.
Col - London Crawford 15 pass from Hippeard (Kick failed), 1:31.
Alb - Cutts 20 pass from Kennedy (Boyer kick), 0:54.
Alb - Cutts 30 pass from Kennedy (Boyer kick), 0:18.
Alb - Boyer Uno, 0:18.
Col - Crum 54 FG, 0:00.