Here we are, the second day of week 3 XFL action. The first game of the day is a big one, the St. Louis BattleHawks play their first home game at The Dome against the New York Guardians. Previous reports say the franchise is expecting 28,000 loud BattleHawk fans, which is a sellout of the lower bowl.
St. Louis started out the game with possession, and looking to rebound after last weeks loss. Wasting no time, Ta’amu moved the ball down the field, ending their opening drive with a Christine Michael touchdown.
Up 6-0 early, the BattleHawks tried to get 2 extra-point, but could not convert.
The Guardians now had their first possession, also looking to rebound from a massive loss last week against the DC Defenders. McGloin looked a lot more comfortable than he did last week, moving the ball and calling plays.
The St. Louis crowd was explosive, loud and not what you want to hear as the road team. You could see McGloin was having trouble hearing the coaches through his headset, which is probably the main reason he was pushed back for the sack by the St. Louis defense on third down forcing New York to punt.
With the BattleHawks back in control, it was time for The Guardians defense to shine as well. They had a lot to prove after last week. In their first week match-up they destroyed The Tampa Bay Vipers, but last week they were equally destroyed by the DC Defenders. They did have a nice sack on second down, but they allowed that up by a few key fouls letting St. Louis move the ball near mid-field. Although they were able to get close to field goal range, the team opted to punt back to the Guardians, giving them a chance to tie up the game.
New York was once again back in control with McGloin still on the bench after an injury sustained during the first drive. The Guardians were relying on Marquise Williams to fill the void until it was determined if McGloin would come back.
With Williams at the helm, the Guardians opted for a lot of running plays, which were proving to be successful for the team. He was able to bring them close to field goal range, but when present with 4th and 7, Gilbride decided to attempt the 53-yard field goal. McCrane drilled the ball through the up-rights putting his team on the board. The Guardians were still down, but by a slim margin at 6-3.
… And @mmccrane16's kick would have been good from 60 if we needed it to be 🔥
St. Louis wasted no time responding, using some trickery to mark the first kickoff return for a touchdown this season, widening their margin once again.. now at 12-3. The BattleHawks opted for a 2-point conversion, once again failing to secure the extra-points.
Matt McGloin was back on the field for the Guardians, hoping to get back into this game before the score gets out of hand. The crowd noise once again had an impact, McGloin clearly unable to hear the play calls from the coaches was once again put in a spot where they were forced to punt.
With St. Louis back in possession they we’re hoping to build the lead. They couldn’t get enough for six, but they were able to add an additional three via a successful field goal putting them up 15-3.
With New York back on the field, they experience much of the same. Once again being forced to punt. The BattleHawks special teams unit once again showed their value, blocking the punt, putting St. Louis in prime scoring possession at the 20-yard line.
The BattleHawks onslaught continued, bringing the ball to the goal line and giving it to Matt Jones to punch it in to add six more to their lead. They once again opted for the 2-point conversion, this time (and for the first time) successfully off a trick play giving them a 23-3 lead with a little over a minute left in the half.
MATT JONES PUNCH IT IN! 💪@mattjonesrb with the 1-yard TD and a little more trickery on the point after. 😎
New York would not go down with out a fight, literally. Both teams had a bit of a scuffle after hard BattleHawks tackle. Players from the Guardians and BattleHawks were going at it, not once but twice. After Kenny Robinson picked off McGloin there was more fighting on the side-line with the guardians getting both of the flags. New York did not look good, were not playing well and looked they were coming apart at the seams.
Ta’amu decided to take the knee to run out the clock for the half.
Starting out the second New York received the kickoff. When the offense took the field Matt McGloin was still yet to be seen on the sidelines. New York once again relied on Williams, but it was unknown why McGloin did not come back from the locker room. Was it due to the injury he received in the first drive or was this related to his frustrations with the team?
In what seems to be the brith of a rivalry, both teams continued to play physical. The refs were heard over the air warning the teams saying this is their last chance before ejections start taking place.
New York continued to struggle, giving the BattleHawks possession for the first time in the second half. Ta’amu came out swinging, literally; moving the ball down the field in impressive fashion. They couldn’t get the touchdown, but they allowed Taylor Russolino to attempt a 58-yard field goal. In amazing fashion he drilled the ball through the middle of the up-rights. Had they not had this lead, the team may not have taken the risk… but I’m glad they did.
McGloin, still nowhere to be seen had Williams back in at QB to try to get something going on offense for The Guardians. We saw a mix of good and bad for the team, but Williams was able to dodge a few tackles on 4th down to allow the first down pass to put them past mid-field. Williams’ gameplay showed from his passion. He was able to keep moving the ball, bringing them in the red-zone. But, at 4th and 1 and down 23, they had to go for it. Today just wasn’t their day, they were sacked on the play giving the BattleHawks possession once again with less than four minutes left in the third.
St. Louis couldn’t produce, but with New York back in charge they depended heavily on Tim Cook who was able to get a massive 33-yard gain, plus another first down bringing them to first and goal. This time, the team was hoping to get a touchdown for the first time since their first game. After three unsuccessful attempts, New York was saved by the flag to give them another set of downs. Three more failed attempts later the Guardians had no choice but to go for it on 4th, but again… no beans.
St. Louis used their possession to run out as much time as possible, and they did a great job bringing it under 8 minutes before the punt. It was at this point that Kevin Gilbride decided to give Luis Perez a shot at QB. Perez was one of the tier 1 quarterbacks that was announced the day of the XFL Draft. At the time he was assigned to the Los Angeles Wildcats, but was traded once the franchise acquired Josh Johnson.
Perez did a much better job than his counterparts so far. He was able to move it enough to allow Austin Duke to run it in for their first touchdown of the game. The team opted for a 3-point conversion, but just could not get the extra-points. At minimum, they added to their score…. still down, 26-9 with a little over 6 minutes left in the game.
Feels GREAT to see the offense find the end zone! 🙌
With Ta’amu and The BattleHawks back in possession, they once again went to back to trying to run as much time down as possible. Technically speaking, this game was still a two-score game… but time was running out fast and The Guardians would need to play like a completely different team to get back into the game.
BattleHawks not only did a great job running down the clock, they also did a great job moving the ball down the field. They moved the ball within field goal position and left only just over a minute left in the game.
Russolino was once again successful, giving his team a 20-point lead.. 29-9. Gilbride was visibly upset on the sideline, he knew that he needed to find a new locker-room leader for his team. The folks he thought he could depend on, let him down.
Going into this game fans online pointed to the advantage that the Dome would give the BattleHawks. Between the loud crowd and the quality of gameplay from St. Louis, they were able to destroy their competition and get back to the winning side of things. They are now sitting at 2-1.
New York, now under .500 at 1-2 will need to go back to the drawing board. They looked to be a dominate force in their first game, but since then have been unable to do anything meaningful on the field. Next week, they’re back at home where the Los Angeles Wildcats will travel to MetLife. Both teams have had their struggles this year, so maybe this is The Guardians chance.
What did you think of today’s first match-up? Let us know down in the comments below or join the conversation on discord.