The Columbus Lions hit triple digits in scoring for the second time in franchise history on Saturday night, defeating the Savannah Steam 100-21 at the Columbus Civic Center in the final regular season home game of the 2016 season.
Only one other time, a 106-35 home victory over the Mobile Bay Tarpons as a member of the Southern Indoor Football League in 2011, have the Lions broken the 100-point plateau.
“It’s irrelevant,” Lions coach Jason Gibson said of hitting the century mark. “That was for the fans because they were here and it was something they wanted. They pay the tickets and pay the bills, and they want to be entertained.
“From a coaching standpoint, I wouldn’t have called a timeout to do it. I probably should have kneeled on it, to be honest with you.”
The Lions scored early and often in the game, building a 33-0 lead at the end of the first quarter and heading to halftime up 58-14. As if to illustrate the strength of the entire team, six different Columbus players scored the seven first half touchdowns, with receiver Jarmon Fortson the only player with two scores in the first two quarters.
Kicker Lindsey Wolfe caught fire in the first half with a stretch where he put four of five kickoffs between the uprights for two points each time. In all, Wolfe was responsible for 14 points in the first half on six extra points and the four deuces.
“I think the most I ever hit in a game was three, but I never hit four for sure,” Wolfe said. “It was awesome to get four.
“It’s just kind of a feel you get. A lot of people said ‘oh, did you practice a lot this week?’ and I really didn’t. I just hit that first one, then did it again, then did it again.”
Wolfe found himself in a unique pressure situation in the last minute of the game with the Lions up 99-21 after a touchdown and the home crowd urging him to make good on the 100th point of the contest.
“One of my offensive linemen turned around and said ‘no pressure,’” Wolfe said. “Before then, I wasn’t even thinking about it. It kept it interesting, but it still went in.”
The huge advantage early gave Gibson a chance to give many of his players some rest and others some time on the field. One of those who took advantage was wide receiver Kyle Griswould. Playing in his first home game as a starter, he picked up a pair of touchdowns, one on the ground and one through the air, and tied Michael Reeve with six receptions on the night. He was also the primary kickoff returner on special teams, racking up 148 yards on five kickoff returns.
“All this week going into practice, Coach said you gotta make plays in practice to be able to play,” Griswould said. “That’s what I did. On special teams, I credit my blockers for doing all the work for me.”
Kacz also had a chance to rest in the fourth quarter, with Darren Daniel coming in and throwing the final two touchdowns of the game.
“That was huge because of the fact that everyone got some game time to be prepared,” Gibson said. “I’m not sure if that helped their experience level (in a blowout game), but it was good to get them in. Kyle’s local, Darren is as well, and he threw a couple of good passes.
“That’s huge for to get playing time for everyone on our roster. Almost everyone has played a game, which makes us strong heading into the playoffs.”
Gibson wasn’t happy, however, with some of the mental errors by his team with such a big lead.
“It doesn’t matter what the score is, you have to execute what you do,” Gibson said. “There were a couple of plays with Casey rolling right and throwing left, throwing picks, that’s going to lose you a game. We’re all patting ourselves on the back right now, but realistically, if you do that against Florida, or Lehigh Valley, or one of the teams up north, you’re going to lose.”
Columbus has one remaining regular season contest, on the road at Myrtle Beach on May 23, before the AIF playoffs begin with a home game on June 4 at the Civic Center. With a bye next week, then another break for the Memorial Day holiday weekend prior to the postseason, the Lions will only play once in the next four weeks before their first playoff game. Gibson has the challenge of keeping the Lions fresh with such long breaks between games.
“I'm going to give the guys next week off, that's a given,” said Gibson. "We’ll come back and I’m treating Myrtle Beach as the first game of the playoff run. Since it’s a road trip on a Monday, that’s not really a bye week. We’ll be able to practice and go from there.
“As long as we stick together and everyone knows their role, that’s what’s important. We don’t have guys pulling on my shoulder saying ‘put me in,’ wanting playing time. All they care about is the success of the team. I don’t know if I’ve brainwashed them or we’re really that tight a group of players.”
Lions 100, Steam 21
Saturday at the Columbus Civic Center
C – Michael Reeve 19 pass from Casey Kacz (kick failed), 12:24.
C – Safety (quarterback ruled down in end zone), 10:52.
C – Jarmon Fortson 6 pass from Kacz (Lindsey Wolfe kick), 7:12.
C – Wolfe deuce, 7:12.
C – Davin Hawkins fumble recovery in end zone (Wolfe kick), 5:30.
C – Wolfe deuce, 5:30.
C – John Harris 24 pass from Kacz (Wolfe kick), 1:32.
S – Kevin Irving 11 pass from George Grant (Daniel Huggins kick), 13:27.
C – Kacz 1 run (Wolfe kick), 8:33.
C – Wolfe deuce, 8:33.
C – Kyle Griswould 1 run (Wolfe kick), 5:25.
C – Wolfe deuce, 5:25.
S – Irving 26 pass from Grant (Huggins kick), 1:00.
C – Fortson 35 pass from Kacz (Wolfe kick), 0:48
C – Reeve 25 pass from Kacz (Wolfe kick), 11:19.
C – Reeve 14 pass from Kacz (Wolfe kick), 9:22.
C – Griswould 4 pass from Kacz (Wolfe kick), 4:48.
C – Aaron Wheeler 4 pass from Kacz (Wolfe kick), 10:50.
S – Irving 30 pass from Grant (Huggins kick), 9:21.
C – Reeve 13 pass from Darren Daniel (Wolfe kick), 5:02.
C – Fortson 29 pass from Daniel (Wolfe kick), 0:24.
Records: Columbus 7-0, Savannah 2-4. Next: Columbus at Myrtle Beach, Monday, May 23 at 7 p.m.; Savannah, vs. Georgia, Saturday at 7:05 p.m.