NAL Top Five: No. 2 – Columbus Lions @ Jacksonville Sharks

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The National Arena League Top Five is continuing and quickly getting down to the number one game. As we get closer to our number one game of the 2017 NAL season, let’s take a quick look at what games we have so far in our NAL Top Five Series.

No. 5: Monterrey Steel @ Corpus Christi Rage

The Steel and Rage fought a long battle until the Steel’s defense showed that they could be the one to have the most impacting defense in the game, having a game-securing interception with under a minute to go, beating the Rage 33-30.

No. 4: Monterrey Steel @ Jacksonville Sharks

The Monterrey Steel were looking to finish the season strong, facing the undefeated Jacksonville Sharks. The Steel were trailing most of the game, but came back late in the third quarter, being the first team to lead against Jacksonville in 2017. The Steel continued their lead and recovered the game-securing fumble in the end zone for a touchback with less than a minute to go, beating Jacksonville 44-37.

No. 3: Columbus Lions @ Lehigh Valley Steelhawks Playoff Edition

It was do-or-die, go big or go home, or whatever you want to say, but there was no more losing for either team as the Lions traveled up to Allentown, PA to face the Steelhawks for the first-ever playoff game of the NAL.

The Lions were showing a football team how to give a game away early, allowing 21 points before scoring anything. The second quarter got a little better for Columbus, but still fell short at halftime.

A back and forth third quarter gave Columbus the strength to find ways to score, leading to an impressive comeback in the fourth quarter. One issue for Columbus was that Lehigh Valley could kick a deuce to send the game into overtime. The kickoff was a squib kick into the crowd and ended the game 52-50 with Columbus taking over and advancing to the NAL Championship game.

NAL Top Five: No. 2 – Columbus Lions @ Jacksonville Sharks Championship Edition

The long wait finally comes to an end on July 10, 2017 at 7:30 pm as the Jacksonville Sharks host the Columbus Lions in the Inaugural NAL Championship game.

Slow Start for Columbus; Decent Start for Jacksonville

To start things off, Jacksonville got the ball first and quickly scored on the opening drive. Columbus turning the ball over hurt them, but didn’t hurt them too much because the defense was a brick wall against the Jacksonville offense. The Lions stopped Jacksonville from scoring for a total of 19 minutes and 30 seconds. Although that’s impressive, Jacksonville’s defense did the same thing, but not allowing any points on the board for 33 minutes and 10 seconds.

That’s correct, the Lions were held scoreless in the first half while Jacksonville found some flaws in the Lions defense, scoring 13 points in the first half.

Slow Start to the Second Half

The second half started off with an opening-drive touchdown, closing the gap to 13-7 Jacksonville on top.

We wrote an article on what Jacksonville needs to do to win this game. You can check that out by clicking here. Killing the third quarter clock was on that list.

Not only did Jacksonville kill the clock in the third quarter, they scored with less than three minutes remaining in the quarter, putting them ahead 20-7.

Columbus Lions Begin to Come Back

In our article on how the Lions can win this game, we said that they’re the best comeback team in the NAL. To view that article, click here.

Being down 7-20 isn’t a hard thing to come back from in football, especially arena/indoor football. Jacksonville’s defense has stopped Columbus all night long. Why would they let Columbus come back and win now?

The Lions open up the fourth quarter with a touchdown pass and a good field goal, making it 14-20.

Jacksonville’s starting quarterback got hurt in the third quarter. Jason Boltus was put in the game.

Jacksonville scored with 9:30 to go in the game.

The Lions come out and scores a touchdown with just over six minutes left, closing that gap back to just six points. The score is 27-21 with Jacksonville hanging by a thread.

Boltus starts the drive off real well by finding open receivers for big gains. The Sharks line up inside the five yard line about to score. All Boltus has to do now is throw a touchdown to win the game. Boltus threw an interception, giving the Lions the ball with almost no time left.

At this point, there’s nothing Jacksonville’s offense can do. Columbus kills the clock down to the one-minute warning. Both teams talked strategy and comeback up with plans for their team to win. Columbus is doing well running the ball, but Jacksonville had some major stops on the run in the same drive. The Lions line up and let the clock wind down to 11 seconds left at Jacksonville’s nine yard line.

Columbus fails to hold on to the ball on the snap, allowing Jacksonville to get the ball. Jacksonville took over with just four seconds left, playing one more snap and winning the game.

Statistics

Columbus Lions

At the Quarterback position for Columbus, Mason Espinosa was the starter and played the whole game. Espinosa threw 19-of-34 for 207 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception.

Espinosa also was the only rusher, running the ball four times for three yards.

First up for Columbus, Wide Receiver Tristan Purifoy had a great game, catching 10 passes for 146 yards and one touchdown.

Secondly, Wide Receiver Jarmon Fortson had nine catches for 84 yards and one touchdown.

Lastly, Wide Receiver Michael Reeve had a quiet night, catching two passes for 12 yards and one touchdown.

Jacksonville Sharks

For the quarterback position, we have two people, but we will start with the starter, Damien Fleming. Fleming had a decent night, throwing 11-of-15 for 105 yards, no touchdowns, and one intercepiton.

Boltus, taking over in the third quarter, throwing 5-of-9 for 84 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.

Fullback Derrick Ross rushed the ball eight times for 19 yards and one touchdown. Ross also caught one pass for 24 yards and no touchdowns.

For Jacksonville, Wide Receiver Maurice Williams had six catches for 46 yards and one touchdown.

Emughedi Umodu for Jacksonville’s Wide Receivers caught five passes for 66 yards and no touchdowns.

Devin Wilson caught four passes for 53 yards and one touchdown.

Individual Winners

Taking the total stats for all three quarterbacks in the game, Espinosa would win the battle of who the better quarterback was. Fleming wasn’t decent with pass percentage, but really struggled with no touchdowns and one interpection. Boltus had a decent touchdown night, but threw just over 50% and had one interception. Espinosa had a decent pass percentage, the most touchdowns, and tied for the least amount of interceptions.

Ross wins the battle for rushing. Self-explanatory here, but Ross got more yards than Espinosa did and helped the team with his rushing than Espinosa helped the Lions with his rushing.

Of the six receivers listed above, the best receiver of the game has to go to Purifoy. Any game over 100 receiving yards is a great game. Not only did he get 146 yards, but he also got the most targets in the game of all the receivers. He also got one touchdown.

Stay tuned to the Top Five countdown as we look at the number one game of the 2017 NAL season next week. Has your team made the list so far?


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