The Gunslingers (0-2) fall to the Columbus Lions (2-0) in heartbreaking fashion as they come up just short in the final minute of what has become an instant classic, 45-46. The offensive showdown was capped by a chaotic series of events in the final minutes of the game, involving multiple touchdowns, challenges, penalties, a kick return for a touchdown and a recovered onside kick. The game ultimately ended with time expiring as the Gunslingers were unable to crack the Columbus defense for the game winning touchdown.
For the first time this season, The Gunslingers will go on the road in Week 3 as they square off against the undefeated Carolina Cobras.
Neck and Neck Through the First Half
The San Antonio home crowd was fired up as the Gunslingers were able to intercept Lions quarterback Darren Daniel at the goal line on the opening drive of the game.
Robert Kent took the helm for the Gunslingers offense, replacing an injured Javin Kilgo, who was the starter in Week 1. Despite being driven to fourth and goal, a bruising run up the middle by Pierre Turner gave the Gunslingers an early 6-0 lead. A failed extra point attempt kept the lead at 6.
The next drive however featured a complete shift in momentum as the Lions were able to find the end zone on the first play of the drive. The Lions kicker, Ryan Gates, was not available for the game, forcing Columbus to attempt a 2-point conversion after every scoring drive. The conversion was successful, and the Lions seized the lead, 6-8.
The Gunslingers regained the initiative on a short pass to Pierre Turner, who ran into the end zone for his second touchdown of the night. A defensive stop on the subsequent 2-point attempt maintained the score at 12-8.
A scramble for the ball on the following kickoff led to a challenge by San Antonio coach Fred Shaw, who insisted that the Gunslingers had the ball instead of Columbus, which was the initial ruling. After a thorough review, the officials ruled that the call stood, and San Antonio lost their challenge for the half.
This ruling was practically inconsequential however, as Daniel threw his second interception a few plays later. Kent threw an interception of his own on the very next play, but a penalty for illegal defense kept the Gunslingers on the offensive. Costly penalties plagued both teams throughout the game, making and breaking drives in key situations.
The Gunslingers were unable to capitalize on the penalty, and Columbus made them pay, taking the lead on a deep touchdown pass to Darien Townsend. The following 2-point attempt was overthrown and incomplete.
With under a minute left to play in the half, the Gunslingers were able to find the endzone for the third time on the night. Electing to go for 2, Kent just barely missed his man and the ball fell incomplete. An offsides penalty on the Lions however gave San Antonio a second chance, and Kent took the ball in himself to give his team a 20-14 lead.
With a mere 32 seconds left in the half, the Lions hastily marched their way down the field to tie the game just as time expired. With a chance to take the lead heading into the third quarter, disaster struck for Columbus as a pass in the endzone was dropped by a wide-open Jabari Buckley.
Gunslingers Hold on Until the End in Insane Finish
The Lions attempted an onside kick to start the second half, but an immediate recovery by the Gunslingers put them in an optimal position on the 7-yard line. Kent found Marcell Brooks in the endzone on the very next play, and with the extra point kicked through the uprights, the Gunslingers took a 27-20 lead.
Columbus and San Antonio proceeded to exchange touchdowns on the next three drives, giving the Lions a 34-33 lead deep into the third quarter.
A turnover on downs for San Antonio to end the third seemed to spell disaster for the Gunslingers, but Darren Daniel threw his third interception to start the fourth, giving the ball right back. A penalty against the Gunslingers pushed them back to their own 1-yard line, but a string of solid passes allowed the Gunslingers to once again retake the lead, 39-34. The pass on the 2-point attempt was deflected and went incomplete.
With less than 8 minutes to play, Daniel ran the ball into the endzone to make the score a nail-biting 39-40. Daniel attempted to pitch the ball to Patrick Macon on the 2-point conversion, but the ball was dropped and the attempt was unsuccessful.
Time was running low for the Gunslingers, and with less than 4 minutes to play, Kent catastrophically fumbled the snap, giving the Lions possession of the ball.
On a pass by Daniel to the endzone, the ball ricocheted off of something into the hands of receiver Deandre Brown. The initial ruling was that the ball bounced off the ground and the pass was incomplete, but Columbus challenged the play, insisting that it actually deflected off of fellow receiver Jarmon Fortson. The officials held firm in their call, however, and it remained 3rd down on the 12-yard line with just over 1 minute to play.
The following play was met with yet another challenge, this time from San Antonio, which once again fell through.
With just 40 seconds left in the game, Daniel effortlessly jogged his way into the endzone for another Lions touchdown. Ironically, to the detriment of the Gunslingers, there was a penalty called against Columbus which would have undone the touchdown. Desperate to get the ball back, with absolutely no luxury of time, San Antonio declined the penalty, allowing the Lions to score.
A 2-point conversion by the Lions would put the score out of reach, and with the game on the line, the Gunslingers defense held firm.
With the Gunslingers’ backs against the wall, Kali Rashaad, who week after week has made play after play, once again came through for San Antonio. Returning the kickoff, Rashaad eluded defenders left and right, hurdled another, broke a tackle, and dove, soaring through the air into the endzone to make it a one-point game. A disastrous false start penalty before the 2-point attempt pushed the Gunslingers back 5 yards, forcing them to forgo the attempt for the win and try to tie the game with an extra point.
The kick was tipped, and the game was all but lost.
The only hope for San Antonio was to recover an onside kick, but without the element of surprise, it was a near impossible task. And yet, remarkably, it happened. With 6 seconds to play, the Gunslingers had just two shots at the endzone. Sadly, for both the team and the home crowd, both fell incomplete, and the Lions squeaked by with their second win of the season.
The Gunslingers will head on the road to Greensboro, North Carolina as they face the 2-0 Carolina Cobras in Week 3.
If you’d like to catch any of this week’s memorable highlights, the full game replay can be found here