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2020 Corporate Challenge in Hampton Roads, Virginia has been CANCELLED

UFL Defending champs win their first home game
UFL   Defending champs win their first home game

By Tom Robinson
The Virginian-Pilot
© October 6, 2012

VIRGINIA BEACH

Rodney Vanmeter. Huge Virginia Destroyers fan.

His black Destroyers T-shirt says so. His Destroyers zippered beer snuggie says so. His prime tailgating perch secured three hours before kickoff, a short pass from the front gates of the Virginia Beach Sportsplex, says so.

When the United Football League danced on the edge of extinction in recent months, "I was on pins and needles," said Virginia Beach's Vanmeter, 66.

And when the UFL at last went thumbs-up for a fourth season? Vanmeter went up from last year's two season tickets to four for his wife and daughters.

"I've been looking forward to this all year," Vanmeter said.

And so the UFL returned to the Sportsplex on Friday night, nearly a full year after coach Marty Schottenheimer's Destroyers won the championship of the league's hastily abridged third season.

This time, though, Kurt Schottenheimer, Marty's younger brother and his defensive coach last year, wore the head coach's headset. Vanmeter, however, suspects the Schottenheimer boys maintain an open phone line.

"Marty may be more involved than we know he is," he said.

In any case, the Destroyers rebounded well from an opening 19-6 defeat last week at Las Vegas.

They rolled to a 24-point lead by late in the third quarter and eased past the Sacramento Mountain Lions 37-29 with an announced crowd of 5,316 scattered about where 14,000 attended last October's title game.

The good news for the Destroyers: they are scheduled to play Sacramento twice more in the eight-game season, including their next home appearance, Oct. 19 at 9 p.m.

Delays in launching the season due to ongoing financial issues so hamstrung the local operation that Sportsplex operator Chuck Thornton, surveying his pregame parking lot on a pleasant evening, said, "If we get over 5,000 it'll be a tremendous accomplishment."

Thornton remains bullish on the UFL, though, predicting an eventual return to last year's attendance levels over the next three home games if the league - which admitted it has yet to pay coaches and players for last week - perseveres.

During the game's telecast on CBS Sports Network, UFL directors Paul Pelosi and Bill Mayer, who funds the Destroyers, promised to pay "very soon."

"Fans in this area just love football," Thornton said. "This is the kind of league that just fits in this market."

Familiar faces to the Destroyers base did much of Friday's damage. Linebacker Tony Taylor, out of Georgia, forced a fumble and recovered it in the end zone for the Destroyers' first touchdown.

Quarterback Chris Greisen threw for three touchdowns to different receivers. And running back Dominic Rhodes ran 18 times for 76 yards.

Afterward, Schottenheimer, who won his first game as a head coach, hit all the usual talking points, praising his offensive line for its dominance but lamenting the way his team meandered down the stretch and gave Sacramento hope.

"We played extremely well early, but I didn't like the sloppiness coming to the end," said Schottenheimer, whose defense yielded only 44 yards through three quarters, 192 on the night. "Unacceptable. Can't be done. It just shows you we've got a lot of growing to do."

Tom Robinson, 757-446-2518, tom.robinson@pilotonline.com

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