COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - The Columbus Lions reached the end of the line on Tuesday night, seeing their season come to an end in Jacksonville in the National Arena League semifinals. That wasn't the plan, but it also wasn't a real surprise.
The Lions wound up the regular season 6-8 thanks to a late three game win streak that earned them the fourth and final NAL playoff berth. Meanwhile, the Jacksonville Sharks reeled off 13 straight wins after dropping their opener.
Those Sharks dominated the game, taking a two-touchdown lead in the in second quarter. Oh, the Lions battled back to make it a one-score game in the second half, but they never really threatened -- which sums up the whole season as far as head coach Jason Gibson is concerned.
"It encompassed what had happened all season, just mistakes in the big games," Gibson said. "You play a good game here and there, it's just the consistency wasn't there. We were so close on a lot of things offensively. We dropped some passes and we threw a couple picks, Bryan took a beating. I mean, it's the No. 1 defense in the league. You've got to give Jacksonville credit. It's the number one d-line in the league – they lead the league in sacks and we knew that. I thought the line held up as good as it could and I thought the defense played well, well enough to win. We just didn't do enough on offense. Just too many missed opportunities."
Gibson did a complete overhaul this past off-season after a second straight loss in the NAL championship game, filling the roster with lots of first-year players with big-time college track records. They started to come together late in teh season to earn that playoff berth but hit their ceiling in Jacksonville.
"Our arena experience never really came together like I thought it would with all the rookies that we had," Gibson said. "We've got great players, great men, love being around them, but from a football standpoint it didn't really jell enough to be consistent. When you look at the teams that are left in the finals, they have a lot of veterans that have been consistent over time and we just don't have that résumé yet."
So now, it’s back to the drawing board, as Gibson gets ready to make roster decisions as he tries to get the Lions back to the top of the heap after missing the league championship game for the first time in five seasons.