02/11/2019 6:48 PM
Road to NAL Bowl III Begins in The Jungle on April 19th
The Columbus Lions, in conjunction with the National Arena League, are excited to announce the 2019 home schedule. The Lions will play a total of seven home games in the 2019 season. The Columbus Civic Center, known throughout all of arena football as one of the toughest venues to play, will once again play host to all of the Lions' home games as they continue the quest for their 3rd consecutive National Arena League Championship appearance.
Home Opener Versus a Familiar Foe
The Lions jump right into NAL play versus a foe that many Lions fans are excited to see back in The Jungle. The Jacksonville Sharks, an inaugural member of the NAL and old Lions rival, will serve as the first home game of the season in Columbus. The Lions and the Sharks have a relatively short, but volatile history full of close and exciting games. The feud began in the 2017 season, as the Lions dropped the first ever NAL championship game in heartbreaking fashion to the Sharks by a score of 27-21. During the 2018 season, the Lions and Sharks played four separate times, splitting the series at two games a piece. This year's game will feature a bit of role reversal as many fans will see familiar faces in different colored jerseys. The Sharks have recently acquired two former All-NAL performers for the Lions in Durron Neal and Chris Pickett. However, the Lions have struck back by inking former All-NAL Offensive Lineman AJ Harmon away from Jacksonville.
New Faces, Familiar Places
With the NAL's expansion into the massive markets of New York City and Orlando, many fans are wondering when they will be able to welcome them into the Jungle properly. These fans will not have to wait long, as the Lions will get to see the new and improved Orlando Predators at home, in the Columbus Civic Center, on May 4th. The Lions will immediately follow that up with a battle against a former playoff foe, the Massachusetts Pirates, on May 11th. There will be no shortage of subplots in this game, as it features a premier quarterback battle between the All-NAL 1st team and NAL Offensive Player of the Year selection (the Lions' Mason Espinosa) versus the All-NAL 2nd team and NAL MVP (the Pirates' Sean Brackett). At the same time, this will mark the first home game for Lions' key free-agent acquisition Bones Bagaunte - while also working as a revenge game against his old team. Bagaunte starred for the Pirates in 2018 to the tune of 54 receptions and 15 touchdowns in only 9 games played, and now looks to use his talents to help the Lions topple his former squad. The Lions and Pirates will also meet one other time at the Columbus Civic Center, a contest set for June 29th. Lions fans will also get a treat from the Big Apple, as the newly minted expansion team - the New York Streets - come all the way south of the Mason-Dixon line to battle the Lions in the Civic Center on July 13th.
New regional rivals format by NAL selects Cobras as Lions rival
Looking ahead on the Lions' 2019 home schedule, it is easy to notice one name continuing to emerge, the Carolina Cobras. This is no accident, as the NAL has taken a new approach to scheduling in 2019 by pairing off teams as regional "rivals" and putting them on the field to battle it out a whopping four times. It is no mystery who the Lions' natural rivals are. After defeating the Cobras twice in the regular season in 2018, the Lions could not come through in the ultimate game, losing to the Cobras in the championship. There is no love lost between these two organizations, and fans will get a treat seeing these two teams battle it out on four separate occasions this year - including twice inside the confines of the Columbus Civic Center on June 1st and July 27th.
Many fans will quickly notice that the NAL has backed their schedule down from 16 games to 14 games. With the elimination of two games, allowing the playoffs to be played sooner, the top 4 teams in the NAL will qualify for the playoffs to be played on the weekend of August 3rd. The winner of those games will meet in NAL Bowl III to crown a champion on the weekend of August 17th.