The Columbus Lions will battle the Jacksonville Sharks in the inaugural NAL Championship Game on Monday night in Jacksonville. The Lions have won back-to-back championships, but they both happened in different leagues. In 2015, the Lions took home the Professional Indoor Football League (PIFL) Cup, and last year, they won the American Indoor Football (AIF) Championship.
The Lions will look to use that experience when they play in the championship on Monday. Columbus has struggled against the Sharks this season, as the Lions lost both contests with Jacksonville this season.
The first loss was a 56-41 defeat in the season opener, and the second loss was a 37-28 loss in April. However, the Lions have been playing like a different team since that last loss against the Sharks.
Columbus has won seven straight games since that April loss to the Sharks. In order to get to the championship, Columbus defeated the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks by a score of 52-50 in the semifinals. The Lions have two very capable quarterbacks that they can turn to on Monday night.
One of those quarterbacks is Darren Daniel, who has thrown for 1,611 yards and 38 touchdowns this season. The other quarterback is Mason Espinosa, who threw for 1,073 yards and 27 touchdowns this season.
Both of those quarterbacks have plenty of reliable weapons. Wide receiver Mike Reeve caught 21 touchdowns, while Tristan Purifoy hauled in 19 touchdowns this season. Jarmon Forston is another weapon, as he caught 15 touchdowns for the Lions. The Lions defense is anchored by Kyle Griswould, who led the league in interceptions this season with 10.
Jacksonville has been dominant all season, as they were undefeated until they lost to the Monterrey Steel in the last game of the regular season. The Sharks defeated the Steel in order to get to the championship game.
With quarterback Tommy Grady injured, the Sharks have started Damien Fleming in his place. Fleming has passed for 1,047 yards and 18 touchdowns in 10 appearances with the Sharks. Derrick Ross has been a force on the ground, as he’s rushed for 25 touchdowns this season.
Fleming’s top receiver has been Maurice Williams, who has caught 14 touchdowns this season. The first ever NAL champion will be crowned on Monday night in Jacksonville.