The Columbus Lions had been here before.
Last weekend, Columbus led Richmond 32-29 at halftime in the Lions’ season opener in Virginia. However, they were unable to sustain that momentum and ended up on the wrong end of a 64-58 loss.
Saturday night at the Columbus Civic Center, the Lions took a 29-26 lead into the locker room against the Knoxville Nighthawks. Would the Lions suffer another second-half letdown, fall to 0-2 and dig an early-season hole?
The answer turned out to be “No”, as the Lions established an 18-point cushion going into the fourth quarter and held off Knoxville, 64-59, to even their record at 1-1.
“What happened in the first half (Saturday) was what happened last week,” Columbus coach Jason Gibson said. “We came out and got a lead that we were able to take into halftime. But at halftime, we made sure to emphasize that we didn’t want to fall off in the second half again. We had a good crowd that kept us pumped up, and we played with intensity. We needed to get this win at home and not be 0-2. We want to go unbeaten at home and win as many as we can on the road.”
The Lions’ offense had only 206 yards, compared to the Nighthawks’ 304. But Columbus scored close to 60 points for the second straight week, and Gibson likes the way his offense is playing.
“Our offense played well,” Gibson said. “I really liked the pace of our offense and thought it was good. But we’ve got to get our defense off the field on third and fourth downs.”
A week after allowing Richmond to score five times on six chances in the red zone, the Columbus defense allowed Knoxville to go 6-for-7 on scoring chances in the red zone and 4-of-6 on third-down conversions.
When indoor football first started, almost all of the players played offense and defense, meaning they had to be ready to play all 60 minutes if needed.
The Lions have their “old-school” indoor football player this year in the form of Anthony Merritt, who led the team in tackles last week as a defensive back and led Columbus in receptions Saturday night against Knoxville. Merritt finished with six total tackles (5 solo, 2 assists) and one catch for 4 yards against the Raiders before focusing on receiving against the Nighthawks, catching eight passes for 52 yards and adding one solo tackle.
“That’s a typical night for (Merritt),” Gibson said. “He’s just doing what he does. What can you say about him but that he works hard out there for us.”
The Lions are back on the road this week, traveling to Huntsville, Ala., to take on the Alabama Hammers (0-1). Kickoff at the Von Braun Center’s Propst Arena is set for 8:05 p.m.
The Hammers lost 56-49 Saturday night to the Louisiana Swashbucklers in Lake Charles, La., coming up t short after rallying from a 21-point third quarter deficit. Alabama tied game at 49 with just over 2 minutes to play, but the Swashbucklers got a late score and intercepted Hammers quarterback Arvell Nelson to escape with the win.
Columbus is back at home March 31, hosting the Alabama Hammers. Kickoff at the Columbus Civic Center will be 7:30 p.m., and it will be Military Appreciation Night.