COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - After struggling through the first three months of the National Arena League season, It’s a whole new ballgame for the Columbus Lions.
And the timing couldn't be better, with the playoffs just a week away.
The Lions go into the regular season finale against the Carolina Cobras on a hot streak -- and not just a hot streak. They're coming off the comeback of the year.
Things looked grim last Friday at Orlando when they lost center A.J. Harmon to injury and found themselves trailing by 23 points in the third quarter.
But then the Lions rose up righteous, outscoring the Predators 32-3 down the stretch to chalk up a 52-46 overtime victory to clinch a playoff berth.
How in the world did they pull off the comeback?
"I don't know," said quarterback Bryan Hicks. "I've told people that I don't know how we won that game. We had Shaq (Wallen) at center who had never played center. Our left guard was a D-lineman (Kendrick Washington). Our right guard was Manny (Ogunleye), and then our fullback was another D-lineman (Corey Crawford). So basically, it was a makeshift line trying to figure it out, so we did."
And that wasn't all that was missing from the offense. "And we were down, what, two receivers as well," Hicks added, "so we were just really shorthanded."
The defense and special teams played their parts as well. Defensive lineman Ulric Jones recovered a fumble with 51 seconds left to set up the game-tying drive.
"It was something that needed to be done," Jones said. "We put a lot on our defense to be able to help keep us in the game, and it was just one of things where we needed to get the ball back a few times. We got the onside kick. That pretty much set us up to be able to get the ball back."
And the bottom line for both Hicks and Jones? Toughness.
"You've got to be resilient," Jones said. "You've got to be able to come back. With the group that we have, we knew multiple players could play multiple positions and we just put people in places where we could squeeze and scratch out a victory.
“If you put our backs to the wall we’re going to come out swinging,” said Hicks. “We’ll come out fighting. And that’s what we plan to do this week. We plan to do it in the playoffs. A lot of people are counting us out, especially playing Jacksonville, and that’s exactly what we want.”
There’s one game to deal with before the postseason, and that’s the season finale, the last home game of the year. The Lions host the defending NAL Champion Carolina Cobras. Kickoff Saturday night is set for 7 p.m. ET at the Columbus Civic Center.