Lions win 51-41 over defending NAL Champs Jacksonville Sharks

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Columbus got a measure of revenge for last year as the Lions hosted Jacksonville at the Civic Center April 21st and won their second straight contest of the 2018 season with a 51-41 win over the 2017 defending NAL champs.

Columbus (2-0) will now have a much deserved week off as they ready themselves for their first road game, a May 6th Sunday meeting with the expansion Massachusetts Pirates, who are 2-1 after their first three games.

After dominating the entire first half, Jacksonville got some momentum and took a short-lived 28-24 lead but the Lions scored the next two touchdowns and retained the lead with defense in the final frame for the win.

The Sharks started backup Ryan Walker and he responded with his best game of the year, throwing for 231 yards and six touchdowns. But he was also intercepted twice and was sacked as well as the Lion defense did not falter in the second half.

As last week, the Lion offense started slowly but Mason Espinosa found his touchdown maker, Jarmon Fortson on a six-yard scoring pass and Lindsey Wolfe’s extra point made it 7-0 at the end of the first period.

Both teams’ offenses found their rhythm in the second as the Columbus led at intermission, 24-21.

Walker threw three TD passes in the second, two to Antonio Vaughn and one to Jamar Howard for the Sharks three scores while Wolfe kicked one field goal, Espinosa hit Fortson again and also made a one-yard run for the Lions scores in the second quarter.

The Sharks captured their short lived lead to start the third when Walker hit Howard for his second TD and that’s when Columbus took command of the game.

Fortson scored his third TD of the game on a pass from Espinosa and defensive back Kyle Griswould, who also had an interception in the game, relived his playing days at Duke on offense and ran for a two-yard score.

Suddenly, that made it 37-28 and the Lions were on their way. Each team exchanged TD’s in the third with Howard getting his third TD and Durron Neal catching a pass for the Lion TD and Columbus led 44-35 at the end of three.

Purifoy put the icing on the cake with a 23-yard touchdown and the Sharks were looking at a 51-35 deficit with only nine minutes to go.

The final Shark TD came with eight seconds to play as Walker hit Chris Gilchrist for his lone score but Walker’s two-point pass failed and the Sharks onside kick was recovered by the Lions to end the game.

Fortson followed up his four touchdown game last week by catching three TD passes and again leading the team with nine catches for 93 yards. Espinosa was not far behind Walker in yardage and was much more effective as he hit 18 passes out of 27 for 225 yards and no interceptions.

Behind Fortson in receptions was Durron Neal with six catches and a score and Triston Purifoy had three receptions for 44 yards and a score.

The key was again the Lion defense as they shut out the high-scoring Jacksonville attack in the first period and allowed only six points in the final period when the game was pretty much in hand. Chris Pickett led in tackles with five solos and three assists and Tyler Stephenson ha four tackles and a fumble recovery and Griswould his interception and TD run.

The Lions also held last year’s TD scoring champion of the Sharks, Derrick Ross to five yards rushing and no catches and no scores.

And for the third straight game, Jacksonville’s defense gave up 50 points or more. The Sharks have currently allowed 152 total points and have suffered more losses already (two) than 2017, when they were 11-1.

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