Fairbanks flips Kent 57-42 in pro indoor football opener at ShoWare; VIDEO

The Kent Predators expect a few growing pains on the field and in the stands as they try to succeed as the new team and new sport in town.

03/12/10 Grizzlies Quarterback Matt Bassoenor gets crushed into the dasher boards by Predators John Fields

03/12/10 Grizzlies Quarterback Matt Bassoenor gets crushed into the dasher boards by Predators John Fields

The Kent Predators expect a few growing pains on the field and in the stands as they try to succeed as the new team and new sport in town.

Those pains were evident as the Fairbanks Grizzlies ruined the home debut of the Predators with a 57-42 victory in a professional Indoor Football League game in front of an estimated crowd of 1,200 Friday night at the ShoWare Center.

Kent, an expansion team, dropped to a 0-3 record in the Pacific North Division of the second-year league. Fairbanks improved to 3-0.

“It felt good to be at home with the fans on our side,” said Kent quarterback Charles McCullum, who threw five touchdown passes and four interceptions after playing road games in Montana and Alaska to start the season. “The crowd made some noise. After we get our first win, our turnout will be great.”

The game featured eight-on-eight players on a 50-yard field surrounded with 4-foot high dasher boards that mark the sidelines.

The Predators, dressed in black helmets, purple jerseys and black pants, fell behind 38-13 at halftime. They cut the deficit to 41-34 late in the third quarter when Andre Jordan caught his second touchdown pass.

But Fairbanks answered with two rushing touchdowns to take a 54-34 lead midway through the fourth quarter to put the game away.

“We’re confident we’ll get it turned around,” said McCullum, who played at Stillman College in Alabama. “We’re still jelling as a team. We’ve only known each other for 30 days.”

Fans were scattered throughout the 6,000-seat arena and did not fill any of the seating sections, not even the prime-viewing seats at the 25-yard line.

“We’d like to have more fans in the stands absolutely,” said co-owner Chris Kokalis. “But we had to jump right in to this.”

The IFL awarded a team to Kent in December, which left Kokalis and his staff scrambling to sell tickets.

“We did radio ads and television and had articles in the papers,” Kokalis said. “We got the word out. But this is a first-year franchise and we don’t have the budgets of the Sounders or Mariners for marketing.“

Kent’s first possession of the game turned into a quick disaster. Quarterback Brandon Pederson fumbled as he tried to make a handoff after a bad snap and Fairbanks recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. The Predators trailed the rest of the night.

Fairbanks, whose blue helmets, white jerseys and orange pants made the Grizzlies look like the Boise State University Broncos, quickly pulled away from the Predators. Fairbanks quarterback Matt Bassoenor threw three touchdown passes in the first half.

Fans seemed to enjoy the game.

Ken Jones, of Issaquah, came to watch Kent defensive back and kick returner Jeremiah Captain, his friend and co-worker.

“It’s been exciting,” Jones said at halftime. “It’s a short, fast game.”

Jones hopes the team can stay in business for many years.

“I think it’s good for Kent and Seattle and it gives these young men a chance who want to play ball,” Jones said. “I know for Jeremiah this is his passion.”

Players are paid $225 per game and a $25 bonus for a victory.

Gary Reynolds, of Auburn, came out to watch Predator defensive back Kevin Jones, a former Kentwood High School star. Reynolds played football with Jones at the College of the Canyons in California.

“The numbers were kind of low,” Reynolds said about the crowd. “But I think they will get stronger as the word gets out.”

Reynolds enjoyed the action on the field.

“It’s pretty neat,” Reynolds said. “I saw a couple of good hits up against the wall.”

The offenses featured three offensive linemen, three wide receivers, a running back and a quarterback. Four players line up on the line of scrimmage and two receivers can be in forward motion at the same time before the center snaps the ball.

Kent coach William McCarthy watched his team make several good plays. He also saw it fail to score on three possessions in the first half with the ball at the 1-yard line of Fairbanks.

“We play in spurts,” McCarthy said. “We have good spurts and then we don’t. We need to cut out the mistakes.”

Those mistakes included too many penalties, interceptions and fumbles.

McCarthy, who coached last year in the league at El Paso, Texas, enjoyed the crowd support.

“For a first-year franchise, I thought it was a decent turnout,” McCarthy said. “And I hope we see more fans in the future.”

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