Each of the past two weeks, the Columbus Lions have had to make a last-second field goal to pull out a win.
Tonight, when the Lions (5-3) take on the Richmond Raiders (6-2) at the Richmond Coliseum, Lions coach Jason Gibson hopes his team won't have to pull a rabbit out of its hat for the third straight week. Kickoff for the game is set for 7 p.m.
"People might think it's a cliche, but, in this league, every game means something," said Gibson, whose team has won two straight after starting the season 3-3. "You look back at the Alabama game (a 63-60 home loss March 31), and if we win that one, we're 6-2 and just one game back of first place.
"We still control our own destiny since we still have another game with (league-leading) Albany at home, but, if we lose this one, the chances of us getting a home game in the playoffs are slim or none, and I don't want to have to come back (to Richmond) again."
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Columbus is coming off a 58-55 win at the Knoxville Nighthawks that saw Chandler Brooks make a 36-yard field goal as time expired to help the Lions pull out a win against a team many consider to be the doormat of the Professional Indoor Football League. Gibson said not to be fooled by Knoxville's 1-7 record.
"Knoxville is a tough place to play, and their team is
better than a 1-7 team," Gibson said. "The biggest reason why we won the game was our defense. It got three turnovers for us, and we took advantage of them. You look at the stats, and you see all the points and yards we give up, but we lead the league in interceptions (with 16, no other PIFL team has more than 13) and got three picks last week.
"We won the game by only three points, so those interceptions were huge."
Tonight's game is a rematch of a March 10 game in Richmond that saw the Raiders score 21 unanswered points late in the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter to post a 64-58 victory over the Lions. The game was the season opener for both teams and the first game in PIFL history.
"I think we're a better team now than we were then, but, then again, so are they," Gibson said. "They're probably just as good or even better. This is a long road trip for us, and we just ran out of gas the first time we played them. Plus, we had a lot of missed field goals and extra points. Hopefully, this time things will be different."
Richmond has a tough defense, and Gibson said his team has to keep the Raiders from building momentum from that side of the ball for the Lions to emerge with a road victory.
"Richmond has such a good defense, and we can't let them dictate the pace of the game or score a touchdown," Gibson said. "We need to keep their crowd out of it and limit our turnovers. When we played them the first time, we didn't know what we had.
"Now, we've started to figure things out and put people in a position to be successful.
"In the last three games, we've been in a lot of different situations and pretty much covered it all, from being up 14 with a minute to go to needing a field goal on the last play of the game. I think we've managed those situations fairly well, and I think that will help us (tonight) and down the road in the playoffs."
Notes: Richmond leads the PIFL in total defense, allowing 227 yards per game, and is allowing opponents to convert just 33.9 percent of their third-down opportunities. Columbus quarterback Randy Hippeard leads the league in completion percentage (64.4), passing yards (2,159) and total offense (282 yards/game).
Lions wide receivers Maurice Dupree (66), London Crawford (64) and Gerald Gales (53) are first, second and fourth in receptions. Elsewhere in the PIFL tonight, Albany (7-1) is at Alabama (2-6) and Knoxville (1-7) goes to Louisiana (3-5). Both games kick off at 8 p.m.