ATLANTA (AP) -- Now that Matt Nagy and the Columbus Destroyers are ArenaBowl bound, they can put to rest memories of their up-and-down regular season.
Nagy threw for five touchdowns and ran for two more, and Columbus held off a late rally by the Georgia Force to win the National Conference with a 66-56 victory on Saturday.
The Destroyers (10-9) lost five straight games during the regular season but haven't lost since. They will play the San Jose Sabercats, who beat the Chicago Rush 61-49, for the championship in New Orleans.
"No one believed but us," said Nagy, who threw for 209 yards. "We beat the best teams record wise in the league. Some may say we're lucky. But we got hot at the right time and now we are going for a title."
Last week, Columbus beat Dallas, which had the top regular season record in the league. Georgia had the next best record.
Nagy, who led the Force to the ArenaBowl two years ago, said it was an added bonus to beat his old team. Georgia traded him last year.
"Whatever," he said. "This is my family now."
Columbus took a 48-28 lead in the third quarter when Nagy connected with Damien Groce for a 27-yard touchdown. Groce finished with eight catches for 87 yards.
But three straight onside kicks helped Georgia rally from the large deficit.
Greisen got the comeback started with a 4-yard touchdown to Derek Lee. He hooked up with Chris Jackson for a 20-yard passing score and tossed another to Lee to give the Force a 49-48 lead in the fourth. It was Georgia's first lead of the game.
Despite the quick scores, the Destroyers kept their composure and answered with two scores. B.J. Barre lofted a pass over a Force defender to David Sanders for a score and Nagy threw a TD pass to Groce to give Columbus lead for good.
"We did what we had to do," offensive lineman Howard Duncan said. "They made a push, but we stood strong."
Chris Greisen threw for 373 yards and eight touchdowns, while Chris Jackson had 11 catches for 174 yards for the Force (15-3), who lost their first game at Philips Arena this season.
"It's tough. It was just tough," said Greisen, who led the league in touchdown (117) passes.
Jerald Brown returned an interception 54 yards for a touchdown to give Columbus a 21-7 lead in the second quarter. It was the second interception for Brown, who picked off a Greisen pass in the first quarter.
"That gave us tremendous momentum," Nagy said.
Even though the Force fell short of a title, coach Doug Plank said the same team will come back next year, ready to make a serious title run.
"These players have shown enough willingness to win," he said. "I feel badly about this loss, but falling behind early didn't help."
Nagy connected with fullback Harold Wells on a 4-yard touchdown to give Columbus a 35-21 lead in the second.
The Destroyers added another score before halftime but it was wiped out by a penalty. With less than a second left, Georgia's Carlos Martinez attempted a 47-yard field goal which missed and bounced off the left goal post net. Barre caught it and returned it for a touchdown, but Columbus was called for an illegal block.
Nagy said he knew the Force was going to have a surge sometime in the game, but knew his team could withstand whatever was thrown at them.
"We have a lot of character in us," he said. "We been through the tough times. We're not looking to just play in the championship. We're looking to win the ArenaBowl."