New York Guardians QB Matt McGloin reacts after scoring a rushing...

New York Guardians QB Matt McGloin reacts after scoring a rushing touchdownin the first quarter against the Tampa Bay Vipers at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.  Credit: Howard Simmons

It was about 90 minutes before the opening kickoff in the history of New York Guardians football. The scene outside MetLife Stadium on Sunday resembled one at a Jets or Giants game, but on a much smaller scale.

There were outer parking lots sitting empty at that time. Tickets were sold for only the lower bowl. But in Lot G, closer to the stadium, there were cars, grills and cornhole game boards — all part of the tailgating experience.

Jon Anderson, a 28-year-old consultant, lives in Manhattan, but he’s a Massapequa native and the owner of two Guardians season tickets.

“It’s a chance to be part of something new and exciting,” he said. “It’s a football season. It’s a new time. If they win the championship, I want to be a part of it.”

Anderson was part of an announced crowd of 17,634, and the Guardians made a good first impression. They beat the Tampa Bay Vipers, 23-3, on the opening weekend for the rebooted XFL.

Matt McGloin threw for 182 yards and a touchdown and ran for another. The defense yielded 394 yards but made two timely interceptions and returned a fumble for a score.

“We’re very proud of our football team,” said Guardians coach Kevin Gilbride, the former Giants offensive coordinator. “It was a game that I think more than anything else showed the character and resilience that we had.”

The XFL has eight teams and features a 10-game season. The league hopes for a longer run than it had last time, as it lasted for only the 2001 season.

“I’ll bet people are surprised about how good the play is,” Gilbride said.

There were a lot of empty seats, but the ones behind the end zones looked fairly full. The entire crowd seemed into it, sending energy to the Guardians.

“The fans were unbelievable today,” said cornerback Jamar Summers, from Orange, New Jersey, who scored on a 13-yard fumble return. “I can’t lie to you. Kudos to them.”

The people on hand were enthused about the first drive in franchise history. It ended with the first touchdown, too, thanks to McGloin.

The 30-year-old former Penn State star and Raiders reserve capped the 48-yard journey with a 1-yard run.

“What better way to start off the New York Guardians’ 2020 season than to go right down the field and score,” McGloin said.

Andrew Soroh intercepted a deflected pass in the end zone by Tampa Bay’s Aaron Murray later in the first quarter.

Early in the second quarter, McGloin hit a diving Mekale McKay for a 45-yard gain to the 12. On the next play, he found Colby Pearson in the left side of the end zone.

Murray then had a deflected pass picked off by Bryce Jones at the Guardians’ 12. That led to Matthew McCrane’s 49-yard field goal as the half ended, making it 17-0.

“It’s a good football team,” said Murray, who threw for 231 yards. “They’re fast. They’re very, very big up front, and they’re going to make you pay if you make a mistake, as we saw today.”

The Vipers’ Andrew Franks booted a 23-yard field goal with a minute left in the third quarter, but Summers made it 23-3 with his fumble return in the fourth.

The UConn product hopes the XFL leads him to the NFL.

“There’s always a bigger picture to get to where I want to be,” Summers said. “But at the end of the day, I’m right here right now. I’m going to take care of business here.”

More football news


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months