Home FootballSt. Louis BattleHawks Battlehawks Week 4 Recap

Battlehawks Week 4 Recap

by XFL

Pity the Arlington Renegades. Needing a win to remain above .500, they were hurled into the mouth of a roaring volcano – a sold-out Dome in St. Louis. Attendance projections had grown for weeks, like the plant in “Little Shop of Horrors.” As more and more sections of seats were unblocked and made available for purchase, the symphony of KaKaw’ing football fans grew louder, finally topping off at 38,310, a spring football record in this century (in any league.) If Ka-Kaw isn’t officially the law, it’s at the very least a city ordinance that needs to be respected. (Like not parking in front of my garbage cans, silver Toyota guy. But I digress.)

St. Louis baseball legend Ozzie Smith presented league owner Dany Garcia with a game ball as part of the first pro football game in the city in 1,107 days.

The connections between Arlington (2-2) and St. Louis (3-1) go far beyond the 2011 World Series. Members of the current coaching staff that worked for St. Louis in 2020, with their former role listed in parenthesis: co-offensive coordinator Jonathan Hayes (head coach), co-offensive coordinator Chuck Long (offensive coordinator & quarterbacks coach), co-defensive coordinator Jay Hayes (defensive coordinator), co-defensive coordinator Tim Lewis (defensive backs coach), quality control coach Michael George (asst. to head coach / asst. defensive line coach). Even former Battlehawks players are now current Renegades players, so they were well aware of how loud the Dome can get in support of the home team.

The fans made a difference early, rising up as the ‘Hawks made a stop on fourth-and-2 on the game’s opening possession. From there, St. Louis native Brian Hill carried four times for 34 yards to set up a Donny Hageman field goal.

St. Louis was driving again midway through the second quarter after a Tre Watson interception of Kyle Sloter, but when A.J. McCarron overthrew his intended receiver, the carpet-haired former ‘Hawk Joe Powell picked the pass and returned it inside the St. Louis 25. A Sloter third down overthrow of his own had the Renegades settle for a Taylor Russolino field goal to knot the game at 3-3.

Arlington and St. Louis remained tied for the league lead in takeaways at that point, nine apiece, the difference being how often the Renegades cash in those winning tickets for actual points on the scoreboard. (Thirty-six of Arlington’s 49 points off opponents’ turnovers. The key to their success going forward will be finding a way to make their own magic offensively.

Defensively, the Renegades are (with apologies to Dwayne Johnson), solid as a Rock. They boast two of the league’s top tacklers in LB Donald Payne and S Will Hill.

The game threatened to limp to the halftime barn still tied, but with :11 left in the second quarter, McCarron found a wide open Darrius Shepherd for a 27-yard touchdown pass, and the conversion to Brian Hill put St. Louis ahead 11-3 at the break. Arlington’s halftime yardage total was a mere 89 as yet again the only true receiving threat was TE Sal Cannella (four catches, 22 yards at the break.) Renegades fans are wondering: Is it the quarterback(s)? The lack of true speed at wide receiver? The scheme? Take away their two Week 1 pick sixes, and through seven halves of football, at this point they’re looking at three total touchdowns. I-45 rival Houston had banked three in its first 13 minutes the day before.

In the third quarter, Hill rumbled in from the 15 to push the ‘Hawks lead to 17-3. He said after the game that 42 of the tickets among the crowd of 38,000-plus belonged to his own friends and family. Hill grew up across the river in E. St. Louis, Ill., attending Belleville-West High School (coincidentally where Arlington coach Bob Stoops had found Oklahoma Sooners kicking legend Austin Seibert, when Stoops was the highly decorated head coach in Norman). “I haven’t played in front of this many people I know since high school,” Hill said after the game. “What an absolute thrill.”

It’s not a surprise to find athletic talent from the St. Louis region, by the way: A fascinating study by the sportsbook NYBet cites St. Louis as the city that’s produced the most pro athletes per capita in the entire United States. Their study analyzed the birthplaces of more than 50,000 professional athletes across four major sports leagues (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL) with birth records dating back to the late 1800s. The results were then ranked per capita based on the current populations of each city and state. Overall, all 50 states and more than 9,700 cities, towns and places across the country were included within the analysis. St. Louis, anchored by a slew of baseball talent, checked in at No. 1 ahead of a surprising 2-3-4 (Cincinnati, Youngstown, Ohio, and Galveston, Texas. Who knew!)

The party continued for the home fans when Sloter sailed a pass into the waiting arms of DB Nate Meadors. “That’s some bad football, guys,” Stoops was heard to say on the sidelines into his live mic. “Golly.”

At the very end of the quarter, a Sloter prayer was answered when Cam Vander Esch wrestled a 50/50 ball away from a pair of Battlehawks defenders for a 41-yard gain. The fourth began with the Renegades in prime position to weasel their way back into it, and sure enough, a 1-yard touchdown plunge by XFL2020’s leading rusher, De’veon Smith – the teams’ first rushing score all year. The two-point conversion attempt was a beauty; a trick play that found Smith tossing it to Cannella left open on the right side of the end zone.

But McCarron responded immediately, finding his power forward of a wide receiver Hakeem Butler for a 25-yard score; that locked in the final at 24-11. No need for comeback shenanigans on this day. Battlehawks fans had plenty to celebrate with several minutes to spare.

Around the team, there had been a somber feel leading up to the game despite the pomp and circumstance; Battlehawks’ student athletic trainer Ben Siegfried passed away suddenly early in the week. The Lebanon Valley College product (and defensive lineman on their football team) had also helped in the D.C. Defenders locker room facility at the two teams’ Mansfield, Texas, base of operations. “So sorry to hear this devastating news come in earlier today,” XFL owner Dwayne Johnson tweeted Friday. “Sending strength, love, light and mana to the Siegfried family during this heartbreaking time. We are with you. Stay strong.”

The Battlehawks look strong themselves, now 3-1 heading into their rematch/grudge match with D.C. next weekend inside the Dome. The Renegades are gearing up for their attention-getting home-and-home series with San Antonio; the Texas rivals will play each other on consecutive Sundays, first at the Alamodome then at Choctaw Stadium.


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