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Their opening game Saturday night at Hornet Stadium was a night of record-making, but that did not help the Mountain Lions as they suffered a loss at the hand of the Las Vegas Locomotives 23-17.
The night was warm and the game was a sell-out as over 20,000 fans watched the game, making it the biggest United Football League (UFL) attendance at an opening game and beating last year by over 10,000.
Yet despite the overwhelming attendance and inspirational rendition of the National Anthem by Pauletta Pearson Washington (Mrs. Denzel Washington), the game was ominous from the get-go for the Sacramento Mountain Lions when the Locos won the coin toss. After that it was a constant battle.
Mountain Lions’ kicker Fabrizio Scaccia gave the Locos a run for their money in the first quarter by kicking a successful 43-yard field-goal, giving the Mountain Lions the first score of the night of 3-0.
The Locos were dealt a blow when defensive back Jamal Lewis left the field with a knee injury, but the team did not fall behind and powered out the first touchdown when Locos quarterback Chase Clements rushed from the third-yard-line.
This was followed by a successful field-goal by Locos’ kicker Aaron Pettrey, giving the Locos a 7-3 lead.
The Locos’ were on fire and ensured the opening game would be one for the books when wide receiver Sammie Parker caught an 85-yard pass from Clement— making UFL history.
The Mountain Lions grew fierce as defensive end Jason Parker sacked Clement in the second quarter.
But the Locos put an end to that rally when running back DeDe Dorsey rushed up the middle for 11 yards to score the second touchdown of the evening.
The Locos finished off the second quarter with another successful field-goal by Pettrey, making the score 17-3.
Mick Martin and The Blues Rockers performed during halftime, giving the Lions a chance to recuperate.
The Mountain Lions took the field with new hope when Lions Quarterback Ryan Colburn passed to wide receiver Reggie Williams for six yards, scoring the Lions’ first touchdown of the night. Scaccia scored a successful field-goal, bringing the score up 17-10 at the end of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter did not bode well for either team.
Both the Lions and the Locos received fouls for unnecessary roughness. Lions’ cornerback Ronnie Prude and Locos’ Parker were both ejected from the game.
The Locos were allowed a field-goal attempt, which Pettrey hit, giving them a 20-10 lead.
The Mountain Lions took another hit when tight end Kai Brown did an illegal block, giving the Locos a 10-yard gain. The Lions pursued and gained enough yards for yet another field-goal completed by Pettrey, bumping them up 23-10.
The Mountain Lions were not about to give up, and Colburn completed a pass to Brown, scoring another touchdown.
With the score 23-17, the Mountain Lions were hungry for victory, but time was running out. The Lions pushed to make a play instead of a field-goal, and fell short of a touchdown. They got a first-down just as time was called.
“You should never really go for it on the fourth,” said Mountain Lions Coach Dennis Green. “You try to work with the emotion of the players. If they think they can get it (and) everybody feels so, you do it, but you should always take points.”
“It was that type of game,” Green added. “I thought we played hard the first (quarter), I thought we played hard in the fourth quarter. I thought we could push ’em back and do it, but we couldn’t push ’em back.”
Rookie Ryan Colburn, starting quarterback for the Mountain Lions, said he thought the game felt good, even with the loss.
“I thought the atmosphere overall was fantastic,” said Mountain Lions starting quarterback Ryan Colburn. “I thought our fans were into the game. It was an exciting crowd, it really, I think energized us.”
Colburn said he didn’t think the loss came down to one play.
“Ultimately … we moved the ball - we just missed some key opportunities,” Colburn said.
Colburn, whom Coach Green said played hard and competitively, lived up to the coach’s expectations.
Colburn had 26 completed passes out of 35 attempts and an overall gain of 256 yards.
“We’ll get a chance to rest and heal up, and we’ll get ready for Omaha,” Colburn said.
The Mountain Lions will play a home game against the Omaha Nighthawks on Oct. 1 at Hornet Stadium.
Photos by Ron Nabity