2018 National Arena League Championship Preview
GREENSBORO - With the semi-final games in the books, it's almost time for the NAL's second championship game. Returning to the championship from last year, the No. 4 Columbus Lions (9-7) will take on the No. 2 Carolina Cobras (11-5) on Monday, August 27, in the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina.
The Lions are familiar with the championship atmosphere, with this season being their fourth straight going to the championship game. Before losing the championship in Jacksonville last year to the Sharks, the Lions won championships the previous two years while in the Professional Indoor Football League (PIFL) and American Indoor Football (AIF). Both of these previous leagues folded shortly after the Lions' championships.
While the Carolina Cobras organization has not been to a championship, the players and coaches on the team, have. Head coach and general manager Billy Back and several Cobras players have won championships with many teams, including the Cincinnati Commandos of the Continental Indoor Football League (CIFL) and the United Indoor Football League (UIFL) in 2010-2012, and the Nashville Venom of the PIFL in 2014.
Head-to-head this season, the Lions are 2-1 against the Cobras, with the last game between the two a 56-35 win for the Cobras in Carolina. While quarterback Mason Espinosa will not be playing for the Lions, second-stringer Jeremy Johnson has proven himself to be a legitimate starter, helping lift the Lions past the Pirates in the semi-final game in Worcester two weeks ago. In that game, Johnson completed 23 of 29 passes for 234 yards and a touchdown pass, while also running in four touchdowns of his own. While struggling in the two previous games as the Lions' quarterback, Johnson has shown he can pick apart some of the league's best defenses, as seen in his stellar performance last game.
Carolina, after blazing through the Lions' the last week of the regular season and torching Jacksonville in their semi-final game, 73-48, has not shown any signs of slowing down. Quarterback Charles McCullum and his offense are able to quickly capitalize off of the turnovers produced by the Carolina defense, which has a turnover margin of 0.73 turnovers per game this regular season, compared to Columbus, who's turnover margin are just 0.27 per game.
If Jeremy Johnson's running game in the red-zone is as productive this game as it was against the Pirates, the Cobras will have a tough time keeping up, with Johnson accounting for 24 points just on the ground last game. The Cobras, however, have one of the league's most dominant pass defenses, with elite defensive backs such as Michael Green and Cedric Poole holding down the backfield, the Lions may be forced to keep the ball on the ground more often.
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National Arena League Stories from August 24, 2018
- 2018 National Arena League Championship Preview - Carolina Cobras
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- Sharks Lineman Derrick Zeigler earns First Team All-NAL - Jacksonville Sharks
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