East Rutherford, N.J– What a difference a week makes. The New York Guardians (2-2) turned their season around today with a 17-14 victory of the Los Angeles Wildcats (1-3). Both teams came into the day with entirely different outlooks. LA, coming off a dominant home performance against the then-unbeaten DC Defenders, and New York coming off of two straight demoralizing losses on the road, which saw the Guardians outscored 59-9.
With Luis Perez starting at Quarterback, and strong running by Darius Victor (18-82). The New York Guardians offense did just enough offensively to ward off the Wildcats led by Josh Johnson.
The schedule makers can get an assist in this outcome as well. LA had to travel to the east coast and play an early game on short rest. Adding to LA’s disadvantage was the fact that their top receiver Nelson Spruce (knee) and emerging runner Martez Carter (hip), were both unable to suit up and play.
With no ground attack, the LA Wildcats leaned heavily on Josh Johnson (25/40 330 yards 2 touchdowns) to win this game for them. That and Winston Moss employing a refuse to lose mentality and going for it successfully on 4th down on two separate occasions. Most notably, on a 4th and 2 on their own 28-yard line in the second half. LA nearly stole this game on the road. Two missed field goals by veteran kicker Nick Novak ended up being the difference in the contest. LA outgained NY 350-250.
The difference in this game was the New York Guardians’ defense. Despite giving up big numbers to Johnson and Tre McBride (8-127-1td). The New York defense made big plays all day long in crucial moments. Oklahoma State Star Jarrell Owens had his breakout moment of the early season, with 2 sacks and a blocked field goal. Late in the game tied at 14-14, LA was driving into NY territory to take the lead. Superstar cornerback Jamar Summers made one of, if not the best individual defensive play of the early season, with a huge interception and return, that helped slow down the Wildcats second-half momentum.
— New York Guardians (@XFLGuardians) February 29, 2020
The Guardians’ special teams also played a hand in today’s triumph. Kicker Matt McCrane made three big kicks (51,23 and 47) in windy conditions at MetLife. Punter Justin Vogel pinned LA deep inside the ten-yard line for what ended up being the Wildcats’ final desperation drive to potentially tie or win the game late.
The story of the day, however, was Quarterback Luis Perez. The player who was once assigned to the Wildcats and positioned as their franchise player was deemed expendable when LA acquired Josh Johnson. Late in training camp, Luis Perez was unceremoniously traded away for backup QB Chad Kanoff. On this day, Luis Perez took command of New York’s beleaguered attack and showed composure and poise in the pocket. Perez finished the day 18/26 for a modest 150 yards and a touchdown, but his numbers on the day could have been better if not for an uncharacteristic deep ball drop by Mekale McKay late, that would have sealed the game. Perez was the reason that LA walked away from MetLife today with a 1-3 record.
New York at 2-2, now heads back on the road to face Bob Stoops and the Dallas Renegades at Globe Life Park, Saturday 5 pm ET on Fox. With six weeks to go, the Guardians’ are now back in the playoff hunt in the East. For the now 1-3 LA Wildcats, they head back home and host the Tampa Bay Vipers in a 9 pm ET/6 pm PT primetime game on ESPN next Sunday.
Los Angeles Wildcats Head Coach, Winston Moss
On being 1-3 and what you tell your team on the way back to LA:
“I thought we had a breakthrough, to be honest with you. After meeting with the guys and there were some emotions and there were some things going on. We’re at a crossroads and I think that with the heart and character, the Wildcat way will show itself strong moving forward. I think this loss is actually going to help us move forward through the rest of this season.”
Los Angeles Wildcats Quarterback, Josh Johnson
On playing consistent football and getting back on track:
“I mean just really focusing on the fundamentals of football- the details- and just trying to go out there and play the quarterback position the way I’ve been taught, and the way that our coaches want me to play it, just trying to take one play at a time, and just execute as best as possible- but obviously it’s not good enough right now. So, just got to find a way to get better.”
New York Guardians Head Coach, Kevin Gilbride:
On the win:
“We’re obviously excited about the win. We’re very pleased with the effort that our players put forth. I thought they continued to fight and play hard, which we needed to do if we’re gonna get a W against a very good football team. Josh Johnson’s a heck of a quarterback and made some spectacular plays, so we were very fortunate to hang in there and win, but that was the thing that I thought we could do if we just don’t self-destruct. We had that one moment where there was a frustrated young man with a holding call, and we just can’t have that. But other than that, I thought the guys showed the kind of discipline that you need to show, and good football teams have. It was a small step but it was at least a step in the right direction, so we’re pleased with that.”
On Quarterback Luis Perez:
“I thought Luis showed the kind of poise and composure and understanding of what we’re trying to do that you like to see from that position. I was very pleased with his effort. He’d be the first one to tell you that there were some chances that he didn’t quite see and he didn’t quite get the ball where he needed to get it to, but the bottom line is you keep playing, and when you miss a throw or you miss an opening that was available to you, it doesn’t destroy you and prevent you from coming back the next play. You continue to play, play in and play out, and he does that very well. Of course, that’s just his makeup. It was good – I think he was a significant catalyst to us playing as well as we did…He’s like most quarterbacks that are the right makeup – the competitive kind of guys that like to be pushed, they like to be coached, they like to be taught as to what you’re trying to achieve. He certainly is a guy that enjoys being a student of the game, a guy that likes to come in and watch the film. He lives with his family still out in California, his wife just had a baby. So he’s got a lot of time on his hands. So when we finished the day at about 5:00, it’s a long day. A lot of guys aren’t looking to come back in, you know. They’ve been here since 8:00 this morning, but he’s there every night. He’s got that kind of drive to absorb as much information and as much knowledge as he can, and he’s done a terrific job in a short period of time. He’s the makeup you’re looking for, no question about it.”
New York Guardians Quarterback, Luis Perez:
On the transition from being an elite bowler to community college to DII Player of the year, now starting for the Guardians:
“I think faith is number one – after so many times – you get stomped on and there are so many different circumstances that happen, you just got to keep faith and keep working, and believe in your work ethic and hope that everything will work out.”
His personal assessment of his first start:
“There are a lot of plays that I wish I had back – As a quarterback you want to be perfect all the time, but obviously that’s not going to be the case, but ultimately it’s about improving, so I’m going to go back and watch the tape and improve for next week.”
On what the message was to the team before the go-ahead FG drive in the fourth quarter:
“It all started by saying we have a bunch of leaders on this team. Coach then says ‘we are going to hit adversity at some point in the game and it’s about how we respond to it that matters. Let’s get a drive going and let’s go get some points.’
On the way the entire team came together to win the game:
“This was the definition of a team win. Matt [McCrane] making all of those kicks, and they were some long kicks. Justin [Vogel], at the end, pinning them inside the 10 yard line. Offense doing our part. We talk about no turnovers all the time in all aspects, and the defense got one, and we didn’t turn it over.”
On the incompletion to McKay:
“Not every play is going to be made. He knows he makes that play 99 out of 100 times. I told him, as soon as that happened, I’m coming back to you, I still have faith in you, and I know you’re going to make a play for me.”
On the crowd support:
“On third down you can hear them chanting and that definitely helps, especially because, as quarterbacks we have the earpiece and when it starts getting really loud, it’s hard to hear the communication. The false starts, all the penalties, it shows up. The crowd played a huge part in that.”
On facing his former team:
“It definitely felt good going against them. Ultimately, I wish them nothing but the best. They’ve been great to me. I talked to a lot of the guys after the game everything was fun and love, I wish them nothing but the best going forward.”
On keeping the momentum going into next week:
“This is definitely a momentum game. Now we got one down, we just need to keep stringing them along, and we know that. We know we didn’t play our best in all facets of the game. We’ve got to be obsessed with detail- not being okay with being average. I think with this win it’s going to help motivate everyone to stack these wins together.”