BRIAN BAER / Special to The Bee

It's take me out to the ballpark for football

Published: Saturday, Sep. 29, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Monday, Mar. 18, 2013 - 10:36 am

It was the first game of the season, so problems were to be expected.

This one, however, was up for all to see.

The scoreboard read 7-3 Mountain Lions with 2:07 to go before halftime.

And the time stayed frozen halftime until the technical glitch was corrected.

For the first football game of the United Football League season at Raley Field, that was the only noticeable problem as Sacramento's UFL squad hosted the Omaha Nighthawks on Friday night.

The Nighthawks beat the Mountain Lions 24-20 in front of an announced crowd of 8,023.

This is the Mountain Lions' third season in Sacramento after beginning as the California Redwoods in the Bay Area in 2009.

The home venue is a change from their first two years in Sacramento.

The franchise is playing at Raley Field after two seasons at Hornet Stadium on the campus of Sacramento State. The Mountain Lions have three more home games left on their eight-game schedule.

Brian Williams found checking out the game with friends an enjoyable way to spend a Friday night.

Seated in section 110, he said the overall experience was a step up from playing at a college facility.

"You can come down here and see a game and have a drink," Williams said. "We watched them the last couple seasons at Sac State."

Playing in a stadium built for the A's Triple-A team, the River Cats, provides unique seating opportunities not found at the normal professional football games.

The team offers lawn seating down the right-field line to right-center field.

And to not affect the sight lines from fans sitting along what would be the third-base line, both teams share the sideline in front of the right- field fence.

The seating capacity for football is 14,014, with 11,000 of those being fixed seats.

Overall, the atmosphere was relaxed in the stands and on the grass, where parents played catch with their kids.

"It's been fun," Williams said. "I'm probably going to check out a couple more (games)."

Kings forward Jason Thompson also checked out the game. Thompson, a big fan of the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles, was in the stands.

"I know (Omaha receiver Marcus Harris), so I came out to support him," he said.

There were questions as to whether there would be a UFL season in 2012. Last season's schedule was cut short, and the title game moved up.

The league, however, managed to return with four teams: Sacramento, Omaha, Las Vegas and Virginia.

The Mountain Lions finished the 2011 season 2-3. Six players – fullback Kai Brown, center Matt Spanos, defensive end Jason Parker, safety John Busing and running back John David Washington – are back from the team that finished third in the league.

The headliner this season is quarterback Josh Johnson, who starred at Oakland Tech High School before playing for 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh at the University of San Diego and being drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2008.

Johnson is also familiar with local fans, since he was with the 49ers during training camp and released at the end of training camp.

He completed all five of his passes for 25 yards and a touchdown on Sacramento's opening drive. He also ran for 35 yards in three carries.

But on that drive Johnson was hit on his right knee by an opponent's helmet and had to leave the game. He returned in the second quarter.

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