Columbus, Ga (WRBL) – In a league where teams are averaging 48 points a night, defense is typically an afterthought. That is not the case with the Columbus Lions. Despite all the emphasis on offense in arena football, it is actually the Lions’ defense that is carrying the team on their three-game winning streak.
“The defense is tough man,” said Lions’ defensive back Rodney Hall Jr. “We came in this season, and we told everybody that we want to show out this year. We work hard every day at practice. We practice like we’re in a game, and it shows every week.”
Columbus is holding teams to just 29 points per game during their win streak. That’s by far the best in the National Arena League. Even if you include the 65 points given up against Albany in the season opener, the Lions are still only averaging 37.8 points against. That’s a touchdown less than the second-ranked defense of the Jersey Flight.
Speaking of the Flight, Columbus held Jersey to a season-low 15 points in Week 3. The very next week, Jersey went out and scored 65 points against Carolina showing that it wasn’t a bad offense for the Flight, but a suffocating defense from the Lions that was the difference. While the results are staggering on game day, coach Jason Gibson says that’s just the result of the hard work at practice.
“I specifically remember the day at practice that they just flipped another switch,” said Gibson referencing the Wednesday practice the week of the Jersey game. “We couldn’t even get a first down. We couldn’t complete a pass, and I thought we might be on to something. They were flying around. They were jawing, but they were jawing in a good way with each other. Not talking trash, and I knew. I knew then. I was like ‘Wow these guys are moving.’ It’s pretty special.”
The Lions also lead the NAL with 13 forced turnovers (next highest is eight). Columbus leads the NAL in both interceptions, with seven, and fumble recoveries, with six. They are also tied for the league lead with seven sacks. In fact, Columbus defensive back Marvin Ross has more interceptions by himself than four of the five other teams in the NAL. Ross has racked up four interceptions. In last week’s game against Jacksonville, Ross picked off three passes. It’s Ross’ name in the headline, but he’s willing to share the spotlight.
“It’s big ups to the coaching staff,” Ross said. “Coach (Brandon) Reed. Coach (Brandon) Thomas. They come in with a game plan on Mondays. We get it, and we get it in mentally. And the (defensive) line man, the (defensive) linemen bring in a lot of pressure. So you know as a defensive back, if that (defensive) line comes in every time then it makes it easier on us. So we’re just trying to make plays on the back end, and we know they’re going to take care of the front end.”
Columbus (3-1) visits its next victim on Saturday when it takes on the Carolina Cobras (1-2). The Lions are looking for a fourth-straight win before being off for two weeks until July 17 when they travel to Jacksonville.