I had the opportunity to go to my first Semi-Pro football game last night. The River City Gators took on the Central Coast Barnstormers at River City High School.
With the addition of the UFL’s Sacramento Mountain Lions, Sacramento must prepare for something they aren’t used to; a semi-pro football team.
We all know about the Sacramento Kings and Sacramento River Cats, but a football team is a whole other degree of sport that Sacramento isn’t familiar with. In Sacramento the players we are familiar with, on the Kings and River Cats, get paid for what they do. The River City Gators pay to play. Their love of the game doesn’t rest behind 6 and 7 figure contracts. These are players that have a passion for the game you don’t always see in the pros.
I spoke with one of the team-owners, Jason Kang, during the game who shared with me the diversity of the Gators.
Receiver Byron Wallace and o-lineman, Drew Adams, are both math teachers in Sacramento. Linebacker Lamont Providence spends a lot of his time training younger athletes in the area as well as athletes his age. Gabe Sorenson, who has been the center for the Gators the last seven years, has competed in a strong man competition.
Many other players own their own businesses and work around the community serving the youth during the week and playing football on Saturdays.
Although it may be semi-pro, the Gators are not to be taken lightly. The Gators are coming off a season in which they were first in the NCFL East Division with a record of 7-3.
They took on one of the better teams in the league Saturday night the Central Coast Barnstormers who finished last year with a 9-1 record.
The Gators got the quick lead but the players and coaching staff expected to be up by more.
The Gators scored on a pass from quarter-back and California State University, Sacramento alum, Blake Mori, who found former teammate at Sac State, Camron Mbewa. Mori found tight-end McRuben Fleurinord on a fourth down conversion that set-up a short rushing touchdown by Eric Bailey in the first-quarter.
After Mori threw an interception to Barnstormers corner, Will Costa, the score went to 14-14 in the second-quarter.
The Gators wildcat formation quarterback, Robert Arthur, showed that he can take it to the air as well, throwing it to Byron Wallace in the corner of the end-zone.
Going into halftime, the Gators were up 21-14, but in the second-half the Gators pulled away, finishing the game 35-21.
“I expected a hard fought battle and I didn’t think (Central Coast) would lay down,” said Gator Head Coach Charlie Ruiz. “I feel we have a very potent team, but sometimes we like to hold ourselves back and I think that’s what kept the game close initially.”
Linebacker Lamont Providence, whose brother Kyle was down in Arizona trying out for the UFL, he blamed the team for the slow start, “The offense threw a pick and ran it back to the ten. We fumbled one of our own touchdowns on the five. We gave them 14 points.”
The Gators will get ready for an away game with the Marin Bulldogs next Saturday.
For more on the River City Gators check out http://www.rcgatorfootball.com/homepage.html