The Columbus Lions passed their toughest test so far in American Indoor Football on Saturday night with a 68-54 victory over the Florida Tarpons at the Columbus Civic Center.
It marked the most points allowed by Columbus so far this season in a game and was by far the smallest margin of victory as well.
The Lions trailed at home for the first time early in the first quarter as Rob Taylor scored on a 6-yard run for the Tarpons . The Lions tied the game on a Michael Reeve reception from Casey Kacz and appeared to take the lead on a Lindsey Wolfe extra point, but the officials whistled the try no good despite the ball clearly kicked between the uprights.
Jarmon Fortson put the Lions ahead for the first time with a 4-yard reception from Kacz late in the first quarter. He scored another touchdown in the second quarter, one week after being held out of the lineup with an abscessed tooth.
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“I was wanting to play last week, but I know I was sat out for precautionary reasons,” said Fortson. “We just wanted to set a tone because last year, they were the champions of this league.”
The two teams continued to alternate touchdowns in the first half, but the big swing for the Lions came on either side of halftime courtesy of John Harris. Harris scored the last two touchdowns of the second quarter, then came back with a third quarter reception to give Columbus a 14-point lead early in the second half. Lindsey Wolfe put the icing on the cake with a deuce, pushing the lead to 16, the biggest for either team during the contest.
“That’s what happens when you play a team full of veteran players,” said Lions coach Jason Gibson. “That’s a well-coached team over there and a good organization.
“I thought our defense played the best it did all year. We got a lot of guys involved. I thought all our wide receivers had a good game.”
The defense stood tall late in the fourth quarter, with Larry Edwards sacking veteran Tarpons quarterback Chris Wallace in the end zone for a safety.
“Our defense had some big stops late in the game to get the win,” said Lions defensive coordinator Rayshun Reed. “We didn’t really make many adjustments during the game. We saw one formation they were running, but we adjusted to it.”
The Lions are now in the driver’s seat in the Southern Division of AIF. They only have three regular season games remaining: Saturday at Georgia against a much-improved Firebirds team; a home contest May 7 against Savannah; and the season finale May 23 at Myrtle Beach.
“This is the kind of game where you can have a letdown after, and that was the message to the guys in the locker room,” said Gibson. “We need to keep our focus heading into Albany this weekend.”
Lions 68, Tarpons 54
Saturday at Columbus Civic Center
F – Rob Taylor 6 run (kick failed), 10:16.
C – Michael Reeve 16 pass from Casey Kacz (kick failed), 7:25.
C – Jarmon Fortson 4 pass from Kacz (Lindsey Wolfe kick), 4:49.
F – Tristan Purifoy 44 pass from Chris Wallace (Rey Hernandez kick), 1:59.
C – Fortson 16 pass from Kacz (Wolfe kick), 9:01.
F – Joshua Young 10 pass from Wallace (Hernandez kick), 7:53.
C – John Harris 20 pass from Kacz (Wolfe kick), 6:47.
F – Mike Dunn 8 pass from Wallace (Hernandez kick), 2:39.
C – Harris 32 pass from Kacz (Wolfe kick), 0:32.
C – Harris 10 pass from Kacz (Wolfe kick), 11:44.
C – Wolfe deuce, 11:44.
F – Purifoy 3 pass from Wallace (Hernandez kick), 8:12.
C – Reeve 16 pass from Kacz (Wolfe kick), 5:19.
F – Robert Jones 8 pass from Wallace (kick failed), 2:55.
C – Wolfe 43 FG, 0:23.
F – Jones 20 pass from Wallace (run failed), 14:20.
C – Kacz 1 run (Wolfe kick), 10:10.
F – Jones 30 pass from Wallace (kick failed), 7:33.
F – Hernandez deuce, 7:33.
C – Kacz 1 run (kick failed), 1:40.
C – Safety (Larry Edwards quarterback sack in end zone), 1:14.
Records: Columbus 5-0, Florida 3-1. Next: Columbus at Georgia, Saturday at 7:05 p.m.; Florida at Central Florida, Saturday at 7 p.m.