The final score may look like another Columbus Lions blowout victory, but a deeper look into their 65-8 victory over the Atlanta Vultures at the Columbus Civic Center on Saturday night tells a different tale.
The Lions got off to a slow start, scoring just 19 points in the first half. Columbus had the ball only four times in the first half as the Vultures possessed the ball for nearly 24 of the 30 minutes in the opening two quarters.
“I think Atlanta did a great job controlling the clock, using the play clock and taking long drives,” Lions coach Jason Gibson said. “It was almost like a ground-and-pound kind of offense that we hadn’t seen before.
“It was a weird vibe. I don’t know how to describe it. We were just really dead across the board. Offensively, we couldn’t get in a huge rhythm because we didn’t have a lot of time with the ball.”
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He’s the new (PIFL MVP and current AFL player Terrence) Ebagua, I think, from last season. He’s 6’7”, he gets open, and he’s easy to see.
Columbus QB Casey Kacz, on receiver Michael Reeve
After Vultures quarterback Chris Payne scored on a 1-yard run with 44 seconds left in the first half to pull Atlanta within five points, 13-8, Michael Reeve answered with his first of three touchdown receptions to give Columbus momentum heading into the second half. Reeve scored again on the opening drive of the second half as the Lions outscored Atlanta 46-0 in the final two quarters.
“We knew if we could score at the end of the first half and get the ball back and score in the second half, we could kind of get things going, and it kind of worked that way,” Gibson said.
The defense joined the party in the second half as well, with Joseph Marshall blocking an Atlanta field goal attempt in the third quarter, and his brother, veteran defensive back Roshawn Marshall, picking up a huge interception early in the fourth quarter and returning it to the Vultures’ 2-yard line before Aaron Wheeler punched it in for the score.
On the next Vultures possession, it was Damian Daniels’ time to shine as he returned an interception 28 yards for a touchdown, and the rout was on.
“We kind of changed the coverage up at halftime to a formation they were running,” Daniels said. “We saw it, and I knew I had to get back to the middle of the field, and I just sat there until the quarterback threw it.”
“They needed it,” Gibson said of both his veteran defensive backs picking up an interception. “They weren’t really being challenged until today, so it was good to kind of shake the rust out.”
On the offensive side of the ball, Reeve’s three touchdown receptions gives him 11 on the season, easily the leader among all Lions receivers and likely the AIF leader in that category as well.
“He’s the new (PIFL MVP and current AFL player Terrence) Ebagua, I think, from last season,” Lions quarterback Casey Kacz said. “He’s 6’7”, he gets open, and he’s easy to see.”
Kacz finished the night 19 of 27 for 195 yards and four touchdowns, also rushing for a score.
“I feel like a played a good game today, except for that one (interception),” Kacz said. “I just want to get better every week. If I progress on a steady incline, I’ll be happy with that.”
Linebacker Larry Edwards says despite the 3-0 record, the team refuses to rest on its laurels so far.
“We want to find our identity on both sides of the ball,” he said. “As good as we’ve played these first three games, we can get better.
“We have a target on our back. We’re going to be the best team in the league, and we accepted that, so we’re going to get everybody’s best shot. This team wants to win a championship. Every week, we’re taking steps toward that goal.”
Lions 65, Vultures 8
Saturday at Columbus Civic Center
C – Casey Kacz 4 run (kick failed), 2:58.
C – Jarmon Fortson 6 pass from Kacz (Lindsey Wolfe kick), 5:57.
A – Chris Payne 1 run (Moshiah Lightburn pass from Payne), 0:44.
C – Michael Reeve 18 pass from Kacz (kick failed), 0:23.
C – Reeve 8 pass from Kacz (Wolfe kick), 11:38.
C – Fortson 4 run (John Harris pass from Kacz), 6:31.
C – Reeve 22 pass from Kacz (Brandon Thomas pass from Kacz), 0:12.
C – Aaron Wheeler 2 run (Wolfe kick), 13:21.
C – Wolfe deuce, 13:21.
C – Damian Daniels 28 interception return (Wolfe kick), 11:17.
C – Tyler McMahan fumble recovery in end zone (Wolfe kick), 10:35.
Records: Columbus 3-0, Atlanta 1-1. Next: Columbus, home vs. Myrtle Beach, Saturday, April 17, at 7 p.m.; Atlanta at Savannah, Sunday, April 17 at 7:05 p.m.