The Columbus Lions opened their season against the Jacksonville Sharks on Friday night at the Columbus Civic Center. Both teams were regarded as the favorites to win the NAL title.
Jacksonville gave everyone a good first impression, as they defeated the Lions 56-41. The Sharks got on the board first after scoring on the opening play, but they missed the extra point. Columbus took their first lead of the game when quarterback Mason Espinosa found wide receiver Mike Reeve for a touchdown to put Columbus up 7-6.
Jacksonville would kick a field goal to make it 9-7, and they would never give up the lead again. Columbus would turn it over to Jacksonville, and the Jacksonville took advantage. The Sharks would score another touchdown to give them a two-possession lead. A field goal would put the Sharks up 19-7.
The Lions would stop the bleeding when Espinosa connected with Jarmon Fortson for a touchdown to cut the deficit to six points. Jacksonville would blow the game wide open when they scored two consecutive touchdowns. One of those touchdowns was pick six, and all of sudden, the Sharks led 33-13.
After Espinosa’s third pick of the game, Jacksonville would score on a rushing touchdown to put them up 40-13. Reeve would catch his second touchdown of the game late in the second quarter to cut the deficit to 20 points. The Lions would cut the lead to 12 when they scored with just seven seconds left in the third quarter.
Both teams would score two more times, and the Sharks would go on to win 56-41 in the season opener for both teams. After throwing three picks, Espinosa was replaced by Darren Daniels. Jacksonville (1-0) will play the Georgia Firebirds next week, while Columbus (0-1) will take on the Corpus Christi Rage.