Over the past several years, we have been treated to some enjoyable spring league football. Yes, unfortunately two of the leagues folded before they could even play a full season, but there was quality play nonetheless.
In this article, we’re going to look at several of the most exciting games to go down in the XFL, AAF, and TSL. Of course, these opinions are my own, so feel free to sound off in the comments with yours!
#5: Birmingham Iron @ San Diego Fleet | AAF
This week six matchup in the Alliance of American Football is one that is often forgotten, but was one of the best showdowns in the league’s eight week tenure.
Birmingham opened things up strong, controlling most of the first half. Luis Perez looked fantastic, and the Iron seemed to have the game in their hands after going up 21-9 in the third quarter.
However, Mike Bercovici and the Fleet clawed their way right back into the game, scoring two touchdowns to give themselves a 23-21 lead going into the fourth quarter. In the final period, things got very exciting.
Perez found L’Damian Washington for their second score of the day, before Bercovici threw a game tying TD to Francis Owosu as time trickled down. But, as time expired, Nick Novak knocked through a 43 yard field goal and the Iron came away with the victory in what was an underrated smackdown between these two teams.
Luis Perez ended up throwing for 359 yards and three touchdowns in his best game of the AAF season.
#4: Houston Roughnecks @ Dallas Renegades | XFL
If you missed the first ever (and potentially, the last) Texas Throwdown, you missed out on some great football. This was an instant XFL classic from start to finish, and showcased how entertaining the XFL could be.
To be honest, the first quarter probably made some people turn off their TV’s, as Landry Jones threw three interceptions, giving Houston an early 15-0 lead in a game that looked lopsided from the start.
However, the Renegades kept their composure, and slowly but surely got back into the game. Going into the fourth quarter, Houston was clinging to a 21-20 lead.
An injury to Landry Jones in the fourth quarter hurt Dallas, but Phillip Nelson filled in and played well. A late turnover gave Houston a 27-20 lead, but Dallas still had time for one last drive. They marched down the field swiftly, only for this to happen:
Despite Houston coming out on top, Dallas played one of their best games of the year, and many were looking forward to the rematch. Sadly, we never got to see it, but this one and only Texas Throwdown was a show to remember.
#3: Conquerors vs. Linemen | TSL
The Spring League expanded to eight teams this year, and was run much more like an actual league, as opposed to the previous scrimmage format. Because of the adjustment, we were treated to some fun football action this past spring.
During week four, Hal Mumme’s Linemen went up against Jerry Glanville’s Conquerors, and it was certainly the most intense game of the season.
The Linemen jumped out to a quick 13-0 lead, but the Conquerors fought back, ultimately taking a 27-16 lead in the fourth quarter, as Brandon Silvers found Tavonn Salters for a 44 yard bomb.
Then, things got pretty crazy. In a matter of just seven plays, four touchdowns were scored, and with the game tied at 39, The Spring League had their first overtime of the season.
Ever seen the coaches meet at midfield for the overtime coin toss?
It was the Linemen, powered by Ryan Willis’ 444 yards, who ultimately won the game, 46-39. This was, without a doubt, the most exciting game of The Spring League’s 2021 season.
#2: Orlando Apollos @ San Antonio Commanders | AAF
Right as the AAF launched, most people were unaware about the serious issues the organization had infrastructurally, and financially. When this matchup went down in San Antonio, many thought it would usher in a new era of spring football, one that wouldn’t have disintegrated just weeks later.
The hometown Commanders grabbed an early 12-0 lead, but some fireworks from Garrett Gilbert and Charles Johnson kept things a one point affair going into halftime.
Similar to how they started the first half, San Antonio went up 29-17, but then an onslaught of points in the fourth quarter gave Orlando the edge, and they hung on to win 37-29 in what was arguably the best Alliance game of the year.
What made this game so entertaining was the momentum switches throughout its entirety. Every time you thought a team was pulling away, the other side would fight right back. While the AAF won’t be coming back, they did show flashes of high quality football during their short tenure.
#1: Tampa Bay Vipers @ Los Angeles Wildcats | XFL
In first place, not surprisingly, is the last XFL game played before the pandemic hit. On a warm Sunday night in early March, the Tampa Bay Vipers faced off against the Los Angeles Wildcats, in what was a matchup to remember.
For most of the first half, it was Taylor Cornelius and the Vipers who dominated, holding leads of 17-0 and 24-6 in the first and second quarters. The Wildcats’ offense seemed to be dead in the water, and Tampa Bay simply couldn’t be stopped.
However, a late surge from Josh Johnson brought Los Angeles within four points going into the second half, making things quite interesting.
This momentum for the Wildcats carried into the second half, and before the Vipers knew it, LA was up 33-24. Right when it seemed like Tampa Bay was going to turn the tables, Cornelius fumbled the football, and the Wildcats went up 41-27.
In contrast to the end of the first half, the Vipers were able to put themselves in a position to make a late comeback; bringing the game within one score, and also maintaining possession of the football.
However, as time was about to expire, Cornelius was picked off by Jack Tocho in the endzone, winning the ball game for Los Angeles.
For those of us who stayed up late enough to watch this masterpiece, we were in for a real treat. There was plenty of scoring, both offensive and defensive – and the game kept the viewer on the edge of their seat until the final seconds.
Unfortunately, the XFL had to cut their season short, but this game got a lot of fans excited for the second half of that season. It seemed like the XFL 2.0 was finding its groove, and was ready to explode as the playoffs started to loom.
Of course, we will never know the ending to that 2020 season, as it never came to fruition…something all of us XFL fans won’t ever stop thinking about.
What have been your favorite spring league games to watch so far? Do you think the XFL will actually return in 2023? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!