Raiders, Lions to Renew Acquaintances

Raiders’ three game winning streak will be put on the line in Columbus

The Richmond Raiders (3-1) will travel to Columbus, GA for the first meeting with the Columbus Lions (2-2) in nearly a year. It’s the first meeting in the Columbus Civic Center since March 2011, as both games last year took place in Richmond. The Raiders won both of those matchups to move to 2-1 all time against the Lions.

Last week the Raiders set season highs in points and total yards for the fourth consecutive game in a 62-51 win over the Lehigh Valley SteelHawks. Warren Smith threw for 227 yards and four touchdowns, and fullback Mike Jones added 86 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. The Raiders’ 88 total rushing yards represented more than four times the total Lehigh Valley  had allowed in their first three games.  Richmond’s defense contributed with a blocked field  goal, a safety, two sacks, and seven QB hurries – four of which resulted in intentional grounding penalties.

Defensive lineman Brandon Sutton was named PIFL Defensive Player of the Week, logging seven tackles (three for a loss), a sack, and the blocked kick.  Kicker T.C. Stevens made two unos, a 32 yard field goal, and 7-of-8 extra points to win PIFL Special Teams Player of the Week honors for the second straight game.

Mike Jones has moved into first place in the PIFL in several rushing categories, including attempts (41), yards (159), touchdowns (9), and yards per game (39.8). Last week he displayed power and speed, getting tough yards up the middle but also bursting into the open field on runs of 21 and 25 yards.  He has taken some pressure off of rookie QB Warren Smith, as evidenced by Smith’s team record 80.8% completion rate two games ago, and his 10.8 yards per attempt (second in team history) last week.  Smith has slid into third place in the league in overall completion percentage and in QB rating.

The Lions will return home for the first time in six weeks. They are 1-0 in Columbus this year, winning their season opener over Knoxville before losing two straight on the road. They got a 45-42 win in Lake Charles, LA over the Swashbucklers last week. Two interception returns for touchdowns were not enough for Louisiana, as Columbus got four touchdowns from Offensive Player of the Week Maurice Dupree.  Dupree leads the league in receiving yards and is second in touchdowns with 11.

If the history between the teams is any indication, Saturday’s contest promises to be an entertaining shootout. In the last meeting, the squads combined to score 70 points in the fourth quarter alone as Columbus made a furious comeback but couldn’t convert enough onside kicks, ultimately falling 74-64. The previous matchup was in last year’s season opener, in which the Raiders scored 21 straight points to go up by 13, but the Lions pulled to within six with 34 seconds left.  Again, their onside kick ended up in the hands of the Raiders, who escaped with a 64-58 triumph.

Saturday’s matchup will be broadcast live on the Raiders’ website,  Coverage starts with the pregame show at 7:00; kickoff is slated for 7:30.