The BattleHawks Home Opener was Special and Very Emotional

Credit: XFL.com

Editorial by Alistair E. Fannell @the_mls

It’s been a couple of days to gather my thoughts after driving over two hundred miles from Springfield MO. to St. Louis visit my mother over the weekend to take the both of us to watch St. Louis’s newest football team the BattleHawks play at the Dome In America. I’m 45 years old, I was born in St. Louis and was fortunate to attend the St. Louis Football Cardinal games during the time of some the great individual players that played on the team such as Dan Dierdoft, Jim Hart, Roy Green, O.J. Anderson, Pat Tilley, and Roger Wehrli. I saw with great sadness to see the team move to Arizona after the 1987 season. I was fortunate to cheer with joy when the Rams won the Super Bowl in 1999 for the city of St. Louis which were led by Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, Orlando Pace, and Torry Holt. Only to be angry at owner Stan Kroenke and the NFL by allowing the Rams to move back to L.A after the 2015 season. I’ve seen it all from the highs and lows of Professional football in St. Louis which has taken a beating and abuse from sports naysayers who don’t live in St. Louis.

Sunday home opener was special and very emotional from the standpoint that while I was driving downtown with my mother to find a parking spot around 11 am, I was amazed to see tailgaters across the Dome wearing their BattleHawks T-shirts, sweaters, posing as a hawk mascots  and watching the newly fanbase have their traditional pre-game meal.  I didn’t get to watch the pre-game concerts festivity or get the free give away T-shirts, where the events were taking place on North 6th St & Convention Plaza across the Dome but to see a day later on YouTube videos that were posted, brought back memories of the Rams or the Football Cardinals pre-game event that I use to attend. As I sat next to my mother inside the Dome and hearing the roar of 29,000 fans, it gave me chills to my spine as the St. Louis BattleHawks players were introduced by the P.A. announcer. Then when Christine Michael scored the first touchdown in 5 years at Dome of America, tears started to stream from my eyes. I don’t know why, maybe it was the emotion of seeing Football Back in St. Louis but seeing the fans cheer for their new team shows that they love Professional Football as long as the organization of the team likes them back.

I’ve been through this painful cycle for 45 years with the former city that I still call home. The sports naysayers will say that the Rams moved out of St. Louis because the fans gave up on the team; no not true, it was owner Stan Kroenke who gave up on the fans and even his right-hand man Kevin Demoff actually lied on behave of Kroenke when he said on ESPN 101radio show back in 2014, hosted by  Randy Kakarraker that the team didn’t have plans to move back to L.A.  It was no wonder why fans before and during the game were chanting ” Kroenke Sucks” and some even whore t-shirts of Roger Godell the commissioner of the NFL as a clown who helped orchestrate the Rams move to L.A. And even though they’ve been gone for almost 30 years the Cardinals gave me reason why I lost faith of the team. Think about it, we had 2 NFL teams and they combine for only 16 winning season and 8 appearances in the playoffs.

Anyway, when the referee blew the whistle for the final time which the BattleHawks won 29-9 against the New York Guardians, it really felt that for the first time that St. Louis got the respect that it needed as a football town. Sure, it’s not the NFL and sadly we may never get an NFL team but it’s a Professional football team that is born and originated in St. Louis. I want to thank XFL founder Vince McMahon and Commissioner Oliver Luck for awarding city a franchise, I thank Team President Kurt Hunzeker reaching out to fans across St. Louis to my current city I live Springfield MO. and putting on one of the best Pre-game tailgate party that I’ve seen in years.  I thank the BattleHawks team for putting a good product on the field and getting their first home win. But most importantly I thank my former residents in St. Louis for showing America that we are a great sports town, making the BattleHawks Home opener special and emotional.

XFL Week 4 Power Rankings

We are now 3 weeks in, and man oh man, is football crazy. One week you think you know exactly how the season is going to turn out, and the very next week, something happens that throws everything out of whack. That is what Week 3 in the XFL was, and let’s not waste any time. Let’s get to it.

8. New York Guardians (1-2) Last Week (7)
The New York Guardians are an absolute dumpster fire. Matt McGloin is becoming more and more Jay Cutler-esque as the weeks go by. Marquise Williams certainly hasn’t been any better. Luis Perez might be the answer, but even then, not great. G.A. Magnus has been atrocious. Kevin Gilbride can’t seem to control his team. It’s an absolute mess. The only bright spot has still been their defense, which by the numbers, has been pretty good. But it won’t matter if their offense can’t stay on the field and score points. This season is quickly spiraling out of control, and I don’t see it turning around. The Guardians will probably guard the no. 8 spot til season’s end.

7. Tampa Bay Vipers (0-3) Last Week (8)
BREAKING NEWS! The Vipers can actually play competitive football! Man, they gave the Roughnecks all they could handle, and had a legitimate shot at winning that game in the closing minutes of the 4th quarter. Now, this week, Marc Trestman addressed the media and noted that quarterback Quinton Flowers, who was starting to excel a little bit in this offense, would be taking an extended leave of absence. That definitely hurts some of the momentum that they built this weekend. But, I think this team still has a slight chance to make a Playoff run. They definitely have the talent, and the fight is still there. It’s just going to come down to quarterback play and coaching. I’m not sure how much I trust Marc Trestman, but if this weekend is any indication, he might be able to rally the troops and make a push. They play DC at home this weekend, and we will get to them later, but that is a winnable game. So we shall see if they can continue to keep that momentum they had. For now though, they sit at no. 7.

6. Seattle Dragons (1-2) Last Week (6)
The Dragons are who we thought they were. Solid defense. Offense has its moments. Good coaching. But they just aren’t quite good enough to compete in the loaded West. Keenan Reynolds and Austin Proehl are very productive. Kenneth Farrow is dynamic. Their defense makes stops, and causes turnovers. The problem is, they can’t always capitalize on those turnovers, because Brandon Silvers just isn’t that dude. He’s a good quarterback. He makes some good throws. He makes some timely throws. But when the moment is calling him, he just can’t seem to deliver. They had a shot, late in the game against Dallas, to get back in it, and Silvers just could not come through. I don’t know if BJ Daniels is the answer, but I don’t think it would hurt to try. For now, Seattle sits at no. 6.

5. Los Angeles Wildcats (1-2) Last Week (5)
Wow! The Wildcats showed up Sunday night. They were unstoppable! They looked like the best team in the league. I want everybody to take caution a little bit. First, I called this. I said, once Josh Johnson gets acclimated to this offense, they will be right there in the hunt for the top of the West. Well, I told you so. Josh Johnson was incredible. Martez Carter was sensational. But it was the coming out party of Tre McBride that really put this team in the hunt. We already knew about Nelson Spruce, who is reportedly injured, but hopefully not anything too serious. But it was the emergence of a second deep threat that now makes this team scary. And let’s not forget about the most impressive part of LA that night, their defense. Which caused the Defenders to turn the ball over 4 times in the game. They really dominated in all phases. BUT, the reason I said be cautious, is because this game was somewhat, I think, of an anomaly. They had a lot of short fields, and the DC Defenders just looked completely out of sorts. I want to see a more consistent performance from these guys before I totally buy in. So until then, I will still sit them at no. 5. But I do think this team has the capability to potentially win the West this season, because they can be that good.

4. DC Defenders (2-1) Last Week (2)
Sunday night is one to forget about if you’re the DC Defenders. They looked AWFUL against the Wildcats this weekend. Cardale Jones was just bad, no other way to slice it. Pep Hamilton didn’t have any answers for Winston Moss’ defense. The running game continues to struggle. And their defense was exposed. Now, I do think this game was somewhat of an anomaly. I don’t believe Cardale Jones is going to be this bad every single week. I think Pep Hamilton is a great coach who will make adjustments. But, I do have to say, I think the Defenders clear weaknesses were really masked the first two weeks getting to play Seattle and New York at home. Look, the Defenders are still a Top 4 team I believe. But, they are not as elite as we thought they were. And I think there is a strong possibility, that if they make it to the Playoffs, which I still believe they will, it will be on the road against a St. Louis team that might be better than them. DC sits at no. 4 for now.

3. Dallas Renegades (2-1) Last Week (4)
Man does this team take a while to get going. But once they do, they dominate and demoralize you. And they use their running game to do it. Cameron Artis-Payne might be…..scratch that, IS the best running back in the XFL. Matt Jones is a close second, but what Artis-Payne is doing is phenomenal. He is wearing down defenses, and they just haven’t been able to slow him down. Landry Jones is getting more and more comfortable each week, and this offense has a nice balance to it. But we have to talk about the star that is emerging in Dallas in tight end, Donald Parham. This dude is massive, but he can run downfield with the best of them. This tight end was burning defensive backs down the field Saturday night, and he is a locomotive that is getting better each week. He is quickly becoming Landry Jones’ favorite target and for good reason. This team is just hitting its stride, and they will have a big test this week with Houston coming to their house. Landry Jones has got to cut down on the turnovers, but the Dallas Renegades are for real. They sit at no. 3.

2. St. Louis BattleHawks (2-1) Last Week (3)
I absolutely love this team. Their energy. Their heart. Their passion. It’s infectious! Jonathan Hayes has this team playing great football, and it all starts with breakout star Jordan Ta’amu. Nobody expected Ta’amu to be this good, but this dude is straight up ballin’. He’s doing it with his arm. He’s doing it with his legs. His football IQ has been excellent. He really is doing it all. Pair that with a very strong running game, in fact the best overall rushing team in the XFL, and you have a recipe for success. Matt Jones and Christine Michael are dominating on the ground, and Ta’amu forces defenses to stay on their toes. But it’s this defense that takes this team to the next level. They are, without a doubt, the BEST defense in the XFL. They make stops and force turnovers, which leads to their running game keeping the opposing defense on the field for longer than they would like to be. Could you imagine, a East Conference Championship game in the Dome…. I’m starting to think that is becoming more and more of a reality as the weeks go by. The BattleHawks are the second best team in the XFL.

1. Houston Roughnecks (3-0) Last Week (1)
But they still aren’t no. 1, because that still belongs to the only undefeated team left in the XFL, the Houston Roughnecks. PJ Walker. Cam Phillips. Those names should strike fear in every team they play this season. I’m to the point, that I feel the only chance you have at beating the Roughnecks, is you are going to have to outscore them. Because you are NOT stopping the Walker and Phillips connection, the most lethal duo in the XFL. James Butler, Nick Holley, Sam Mobley, Khalil Lewis, and Sammie Coates hasn’t even got going yet. This team is LOADED! They are without a doubt, the BEST OFFENSE IN THE LEAGUE. Hands down! And it all starts with June Jones. His play calling has been nothing short of extraordinary. This Roughnecks team makes it look so easy to get into the end zone. PJ Walker is the MVP three weeks in, and Cam Phillips should be second on that list. Now, their defense is a little concerning. But as long as they can do just enough, and be opportunistic in the turnover battle, this team has got to be the favorite for the XFL Championship. The Houston Roughnecks are the best team in the XFL.

XFL BattleHawks down the Guardians in packed Dome

BattleHawks Joe Powell rounds the corner in the first ever XFL kickoff returned for a touchdown. (Credit: XFL.com)

ST. LOUIS – The highly anticipated return of football to the great City of St. Louis did not disappoint, not one bit. 

Fan’s packed the parking lots downtown early Sunday morning. That means tailgating, partying, and football.

The St. Louis BattleHawks improved to 2-1 after handily taking down the New York Guardians 29-9, New York falls to 1-2 on the year. 

For St. Louis, the game was full of exciting plays across the offense, defense, and special teams. For New York, the game leaves them with even more questions at quarterback than they started with this week and an offense that could not get going for a second straight week. 

A Day of Firsts

On the day of their first home game, the BattleHawks put on a special show for the fans adding both team and league firsts.

On their first possession, the St. Louis backfield duo of Matt Jones and Christine Michael ran the team down the field for a quick opening drive touchdown. Jones, who has missed parts of practice each of the last two weeks with a knee injury, ripped a season long 47-yard rush. Michael capped off the drive with a 14-yard touchdown run.

This is the second straight week the BattleHawks have opened up the game with an opening drive touchdown. Credit to Coach Hayes and OC Coach Long for their preparation going into games. 

St. Louis pulled off the first kickoff return for a touchdown in the league. Early in the second quarter, Keith Mumphrey received a kick from New York’s Matt McCrane. BattleHawks drew up a reverse as Mumphrey tossed the ball to teammate Joe Powell. Powell took the ball all the way to the house, tiptoeing down the sideline before diving in for the score. 

Special Teams were not done there. Two series later after the defense held the McGloin led offense to a three-and-out, St. Louis’s Carlton Agudosi got through the line to block the punt by Justin Vogel. Shaq Jones finished the play for the BattleHawks by recovering the blocked punt, the first of the year for St. Louis. 

On the subsequent offensive drive with a short field to work with, St. Louis took it in for a quick score on a Matt Jones touchdown run. This was the first rushing TD on the young season for the BattleHawks lead back. And that’s not even the biggest highlight of this series. 

Following Jones’s touchdown, QB Jordan Ta’amu shuffle passed the ball to De’Mornay Pierson-El who connected with Alonzo Russell in the end zone for the BattleHawks first success point after conversion.  And to boot, it was a well called 2-point conversion. Prior to this conversion, St. Louis was 0-8 on attempts this season. 

BattleHawks Safety Kenny Robinson hauled in his first professional interception. On the last pass we would see from Guardians starting QB McGloin, Robinson brought in the erratic pass. Robinson is the XFL’s only player who is eligible for the NFL draft this year.  

The big plays don’t stop there. St. Louis kicker Taylor Russolino got in on the action with the first XFL kick over 57 yards hitting from 58 yards out. Russolino also drilled kicks from 39 and 36 yards on the day. 

And last but certainly not least, the fans in St. Louis, all 29,554, filled The Dome on this the first home game of the BattleHawks season. A sold out crowd in the lower bowl made their presence known throughout the game. The stadium was filled with chants throughout the game from ‘BATTLE-HAWKS’, ‘KROENKE SUCKS’, and simply drowning out the Guardians from hearing their play calls. Fans showed up and did their job. 

Guardians Search Continues

New York came into St. Louis following a disappointing shutout week 2 in DC. The Guardians we’re able to manage 9 points against the BattleHawks. It took a drive from third-string QB, Luis Perez, halfway through the fourth quarter to score the team’s first touchdown in almost two full games.

The Guardians started the game with Matt McGloin under center. McGloin got banged up in the first quarter giving way to Marquise Williams. McGloin would get back into the game in the second quarter but his day ended at the end of the first half on the Kenny Robinson interception. Williams led the Guardians after the half but could not generate any sort of offense. 

During a goal-line stand by the St. Louis defense, Williams opted to pass the ball three straight times. The access the XFL gives fans to the game answered the question as to why New York passed the ball when their pass game wasn’t working. A sideline interview with NY QB coach G.A. Mangus said the plays were called with alerts giving both a run and a pass play as options. Mangus admitted at least one play should’ve been a run. With a QB with little first-team reps, play calls need to be succinct so the man under center can focus on executing plays not deciding them. 

Luis Perez would finish off the trio of Guardian quarterbacks to take snaps under center on Sunday. Perez orchestrated the only New York touchdown capitalizing on good field position starting on the St. Louis 40 yard line. 

Balance Across the Board

From the long and diverse week of firsts, it is clear this week’s win was a full team and city effort. St. Louis kept true to their run-first offense. Coach Long dialed up more than double the number of runs (37) compared to the number of passes (18).

Jordan Ta’amu donned the captains ‘C’ on his jersey this week, the first appearance on any BattleHawks jersey this season. Ta’amu mixed in a couple of his, now signature, escape from the pocket plays during the game. But overall, it was a quiet day for Ta’amu. The good news is that this team can play well without Ta’amu needing to light up the stat sheet. 

Another strong showing from the BattleHawks defense this week helped limit the Guardians to only 9 points. The D-line racked up 3 sacks on the day, Andrew Ankrah continues to impress bringing in his second sack on the year, Casey Sayles and Will Clarke each brought in their first sack. DC Coach Jay Hayes’s unit won the turnover battle 1-0, St. Louis is 2-0 when they win or tie on the turnover front. 

Credit the Guardians for putting up the most yards against the BattleHawks defense. This is the first time St. Louis has given up more than 300 yards (307) on defense and totaled less than 300 on offense (273). Though having given up the most yards on the year, it’s a testament to the ‘no quit’ mentality this team has. When New York was putting together strong drives, the St. Louis defense didn’t give in, stopping the opposing offense time after time on the day. 

Late in the game, it would have been nice to see St. Louis open their playbook to let Ta’amu air out the deep ball trying to stretch the field. We’ve also seen a handful of plays with fleet-footed backup quarterback Nick Fitzgerald in the first two weeks but nothing this week. A three-score lead in the fourth quarter seems like an appropriate time to test out the playbook. 

After wins, I normally assign an offensive and defensive game ball. This week I’m mixing up the categories.

First Game Ball: The Special Teams Unit; for the kickoff return, punt block, and 58-yard field goal 

Second Game Ball: The Fans; The Dome was rocking on Sunday and the team thrived off the energy. 

St. Louis, welcome back to the football scene. You didn’t miss a beat.

Didn’t get enough XFL today? BattleHawks are back in the Dome next Saturday, February 29th to take on the Seattle Dragons. New York heads home to take on the now red hot LA Wildcats. 

Fight and Fly On, BattleHawk Nation.

XFL Week 3 Power Rankings

Well, that’s 2 weeks now officially in the history books. We saw all different kinds of games this weekend. We saw defensive battles, slow building dramas, back and forth thrillers, and total domination, in what was another exciting week of XFL Football. This week’s Power Rankings are the most confident I have felt thus far, but of course, with the nature of football, that can all change week to week. So let’s see where we stand heading into week 3.

8. Tampa Bay Vipers (0-2) Last Week (8)

XFL fans, allow me to introduce to you your “Homecoming” team of the XFL 2020, the Tampa Bay Vipers. They are such a mess. Marc Trestman can’t decide on a quarterback. Whoever he decides will be playing quarterback that day, absolutely stinks. The defense gives up too many big plays. I have lost all confidence in this team, and it’s a shame, because they are talented in their skill positions. But in the sport of football, the quarterback position is the most important. And when you don’t have good quarterback play, you will struggle mightily. The Vipers will be playing their first home game this Saturday, but unfortunately for them, it will be against the Houston Roughnecks, and it will probably be a long day in Tampa for the Vipers. They are still at no. 8, and I expect them to remain there. Houston, congratulations, it’s “Homecoming Week”.

7. New York Guardians (1-1) Last Week (4)

Matt McGloin is leading this team. And after Saturday afternoon, that’s all you need to know to know why they are ranked no. 7. If Tampa had a decent quarterback, they would be ranked 8th. Once again, it’s a real shame. Because just like with Tampa Bay, they are talented. They got some good receivers. They got some decent running backs. They have an elite defense. They have a great Head Coach. But their “leader” is Matt McGloin. And if Saturday is any indication, he is not the right guy to be leading a locker room. If you can’t take ownership for your own mistakes, and you just throw your teammates and coaches under the bus, you don’t DESERVE to lead a team. Yes, he has some talent, but working together, as a team, goes far more than talent ever will. Until McGloin can buy into the concept of “TEAM”, they will sit at no. 7, and possibly fall to no. 8.

6. Seattle Dragons (1-1) Last Week (7)

Seattle, you have impressed me. By no means am I picking you to win the Championship, but you guys will be competitive in every game, and that is “For the Love of Football”. Brandon Silvers is not an elite XFL quarterback, but he has had his moments, and his play makers have made plays when they needed to. But the strength of this team is the defense, which is no unfamiliar territory for Seattle. Their defense has impressed me the past few weeks against DC and Tampa Bay, and if they can keep that up, I think they have the potential to pull off some real upsets. Especially when they play at home, with that raucous crowd. The key for their offense is to get the running game going, and take that pressure off of Brandon Silvers. If he can just limit the turnovers and make the key throws, this team should be fine, and at least be in most of their games til the end. They are my no. 6 team.

5. Los Angeles Wildcats (0-2) Last Week (6)

Some people are probably going to be surprised that I have LA ranked 5, especially since they haven’t gotten a win yet. But honestly, in their 25-18 loss to Dallas, they looked pretty good. Especially in the 4th quarter once Josh Johnson started getting that chemistry with Nelson Spruce. You have to remember, Johnson hasn’t even been able to really practice with his team much, due to him signing late, then getting injured. I believe that this team has enough talent to start racking up some wins. And don’t be surprised if that starts this Sunday against DC at home. I believe people are looking at that 0-2 record and really underestimating what this Wildcats team is capable of. If Johnson and Spruce can build that connection, this can become a scary team in the West. I have not counted the Wildcats out yet, and I think they might surprise the league here the next few weeks. For now, they sit at no. 5.

4. Dallas Renegades (1-1) Last Week (5)

This team is good. Yes, it took them a while to get going, but once they did, I don’t think they’re looking back. This might be the most well balanced offense in the league. They can run it with Artis-Payne and Dunbar. They can sure throw it with Landry Jones. And I believe they have play makers at the wide receiver position that can make plays in the open field. All of this was on display Sunday afternoon, once Landry Jones settled in the offense. Much like Johnson, he has not had a lot of reps with his team, so that chemistry will only build and get better. Their defense is good, not great, but if they can keep their running game strong, long drives will keep their defense on the sideline. The Renegades are threat in the West, and Houston better be looking over its shoulder. Dallas sits at no. 4.

3. St. Louis Battlehawks (1-1) Last Week (3)

St. Louis showed Sunday night, they are for real. They can compete with the big dogs, and they have a legitimate shot at winning the East and taking home the XFL Championship. Jordan Ta’amu is the real deal, and man is he fun to watch. He can do it with his arm, he can do it with his legs, and he has a strong running game backing him up. Matt Jones is a beast, and Christine Michael finally came alive in this game. Keith Ford will be back, and their receivers are really underrated. Pierson-El is a stud, and Washington can ball as well. But man, the defense is LEGIT. I’m confident in saying, this is the best defense in the XFL. All around, they can stop the run, protect against the pass, and they can cause turnovers. I think this team has a fight that can carry them a long way, and their Head Coach brings an energy that can motivate this team to a title. It’s why they are my 3rd ranked team.

2. DC Defenders (2-0) Last Week (2)

Total domination is what this team did to the New York Guardians Saturday afternoon. Cardale Jones is just that good. Rashad Ross is just that good. Eli Rogers is just that good. And oh yeah, DeAndre Thompkins made his return, and yep, he is just that good. Add that with a running game that seemed to be finding life in the 4th quarter, and a defense that has a pick six in each game so far, and you have the best team in the East. The DC Defenders are great, and Pep Hamilton is the main reason why. His play calling has been outstanding, and his willingness to take risk has paid off tremendously. This team has an identity, and it sticks to that. Have Cardale Jones make plays on the move, give the ball to their play makers, and let their defense have its opportunities. Drop in their some trick plays, and you have a recipe for success. But, they are still no. 2.

1. Houston Roughnecks (2-0) Last Week (1)

Because the Houston Roughnecks are still the best team in the XFL. PJ Walker is hands down, right now, at this moment, not just the best quarterback in the league, he is the best player in the league. He has looked unstoppable through the first 2 weeks, and I don’t see him slowing down anytime soon. But he ain’t by himself. Cam Phillips, who was named the Star of the Week this week, is an absolute beast. He can route run, he can turn on the gas, and he can catch with the best of them. Khalil Lewis, Nick Holley, Sammie Coates, James Butler, who do you try and stop? Good luck to any defense that has to play this Houston offense this season. But what’s scary for the league, is this defense is coming alive week by week. They get to the quarterback, and I mean they GET TO THE QUARTERBACK. Not to mention, they capitalize on every opportunity they get with takeaways, and they do not break easily. This is the clear favorite right now to win the West, and my current favorite to win it all. The Houston Roughnecks are the XFL’s best team until somebody proves otherwise.

Suddenly the “Belles of the Ball” the St. Louis BattleHawks are turning them away

Jordan Ta'amu
Jordan Ta’amu and the BattleHawks are eyeing down their home opener in Week 3. (Credit XFL.com)

ST. LOUIS – The BattleHawks are living the high life in the city of St. Louis, and popularity of the team seems to have risen to a level that is too much to handle.

The team’s first home game to be played in The Dome is now a sellout at 28,000 fans. The sellout is for the entire lower bowl, and BattleHawks president Kurt Hunzeker says they aren’t going to open the upper bowl.

In essence, the BattleHawks will turn away paying fans, even though there are perfectly good seats available. However, the BattleHawks front office feels there are good reasons, mainly logistical, but also aesthetics.

“The upper deck, logistical issues involved there. A lot of it is customer service, a lot of it is manpower, a lot from an aesthetic standpoint,” Hunzeker explained.  “We’re going to dim out the upstairs. People will see an intimate environment, which is what the XFL wanted. A great game experience and having 28,000 fans on top of the action.”

Last week, Seattle set the XFL 2020 attendance record with just over 29,000 fans in CenturyLink Field. Now, with St. Louis capping their attendance at 28,000, Seattle’s record is safe.

Other than missing a chance for a statistical win, you would think the BattleHawks front office must feel they are missing an opportunity to introduce additional St. Louis fans to  their special “fan friendly” game day experience.

Limiting media

In addition to limiting the amount of fans that can take in the opening game, the BattleHawks are also limiting the number of media representatives that are being credentialed for the game.

“We had our only St. Louis reporter denied credentials because we were told that the media demand was far greater than they could manage,” XFLBoard.com senior editor Mark Nelson said. “We understand the limitations they have, but this makes it hard for us to cultivate a good relationship with St. Louis. In fact, we have noticed all along that they seem to be too busy to deal with even the smallest request.”

Nelson also said that XFLBoard.com, which features a large number of player stories, is having trouble arranging interviews through the St. Louis team.

“Our requests are wholly unfulfilled,” Nelson said. “We simply stopped asking. This is mainly why you don’t see a lot of BattleHawks players on our podcast, or featured in stories on our pages. We can’t connect with them effectively.”

Apparently, the “Belle of the Ball” St. Louis BattleHawks has such a full dance card that they can’t make time for  everyone.

More missed opportunities.

Roughnecks Outlast BattleHawks Sunday Night

Houston Roughnecks Cam Phillips celebrates a touchdown by jumping into the stands. (Credit: XFL.com)

In what was definitely the “Game of the Week” and arguably the “Game of the Year” thus far, in the battle between the Houston Roughnecks and the St. Louis BattleHawks, the Roughnecks out dueled the BattleHawks to remain perfect on the season. Only the Roughnecks and the Defenders remain undefeated this season at 2-0. But while DC had an easy time handling the New York Guardians with a 27-0 victory, Sunday night was a back and forth battle for all four quarters. The Roughnecks and BattleHawks proved last night that they are both contenders for the Championship, and they will both be a force to be reckoned with as the season progresses. It was a game with crazy plays, some that withstood, some that didn’t, and there was excitement throughout the game. So let’s break it down and analyze what happened.

First off, we have to talk about the best QB to WR duo in the league. PJ Walker and Cam Phillips were outstanding once again with 3 touchdowns for the dynamic duo through the air. Their chemistry seems to get better by the week, and I don’t see a team that can slow them down anytime soon. PJ Walker finished with 170 yards, on 20/31 passing, and 3 touchdowns, all of which went to his favorite target, Cam Phillips, who finished with 8 receptions for 63 yards and 3 touchdowns. These two have their timing down perfectly, and that was extremely evident when PJ channeled his inner Patrick Mahomes and threw a beautiful side arm pass that lead Phillips perfectly. They were in sync all night and that is only going to grow stronger the longer they play together. The XFL better be on alert, if they aren’t already, because this connection is the most lethal in the league.

As far as the rest of the offense goes, it was spectacular. Khalil Lewis and Nick Holley were excellent again in the passing game, and James Butler and PJ Walker contributed nicely on the ground. I thought June Jones called a nice balanced attack, while never forgetting what their identity is. They pretty much got what they wanted against a very good BattleHawks defense, and even when the plays broke down, they were able to make on the fly adjustments that were for positive yardage. Of course, it helps whenever you have PJ Walker under center. Much like Deshaun Watson, the play is never over when he has the ball in his hands. He avoided numerous sacks in this game, and still the most impressive thing is, he keeps his eyes down field to look to pass before he runs with the ball. De’Angelo Henderson was out this week, so expect when he gets back healthy to be utilized pretty heavily in both the running game and passing game.

But now, let’s talk about the most impressive thing for me for the second straight week, and that’s this Roughneck defense. Before the season started, I could have told you that this was going to be the best offense in the league. In fact, I think most people believed that. But the reason people were hesitant to buy into the Roughnecks as true title contenders, was because there were questions about their defense. Yes, they played well last week, but that was against Chad Kanoff, Los Angeles’ second string quarterback, and a Wildcat team that, well to put it nicely, has internal issues. So I wanted to see how this defense would do against one of the best offenses in the league, and they delivered. 2 takeaways, 3 sacks, and getting the open field tackles when they needed them most, helped seal a win against the BattleHawks. Now, in no way am I saying that this defense is elite by any means, but when you combine them with this offense, they play well enough to win you a Championship. They are very much a bend but don’t break opportunistic defense that hits hard and plays fast.

But, having said that, St. Louis was able to move the ball on them, and if it wasn’t for those takeaways, the BattleHawks might have won the game. So this team still has some work to do on the defensive side of the ball, and the middle of the field still seems to be their biggest weakness. If they can at least just limit teams in the red zone and hold them to field goals, this offense will score enough points to get the job done.

All in all, I loved what I saw from the Roughnecks in a gritty game against a good opponent, and I still believe, after this week, they are the favorites to win the West. But I think this team has bigger goals than just winning the West, and if they want to achieve those goals, the defense will still need to try and iron some things out. But the offense still looks as lethal as ever, and, at least for right now, nothing is stopping “The Firework Show”!

BattleHawks Fall Short Against the Roughnecks in Week 2 Thriller

Houston QB PJ Walker evades the BattleHawks Jake Payne. (Credit: XFL.com)

HOUSTON – In the most exciting game of the weekend, the Houston Roughnecks and St. Louis BattleHawks traded jabs for four quarters of hardnose football. In the end, Houston (2-0) held on to top St. Louis (1-1) with a final score of 28-24. 

Two of the best quarterbacks in the league squared up and showed their stuff. Houston is led by the shifty PJ Walker. Walker was with the Colts alongside former NFL QB Andrew Luck. Andrew gave Walker high praise encouraging his dad, and XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck, to let Walker try out for the league. Andrew and Oliver both made good decisions as Walker has been one of the most fun players to watch over the first 2 weeks.  

And St. Louis’s own Jordan Ta’amu, the fleet-footed strong-armed 22-year old who is the youngest starting QB in the league.  

Week 2 saw St. Louis stick to their game 1 identity being a run-first team, carrying the ball 43 times for 126 yards. Rush attempts accounted for 54% of their plays this week, down from close to 60% week 1. The BattleHawks likely would’ve kept that 60% run/pass ratio had they not been down the entire second half. 

Matt Jones battled a knee injury during the week which impacted his carry total on the day. He also looked to have reaggravated his knee early in the second half. He ended the day with 16 carries for 44 yards. Christine Michael picked up carries this week with Jones nursing an injury and Keith Ford out for the game. Michael put up a similar line with 15 rushes for 38 yards. 

BattleHawks quarterback Jordan Ta’amu impressed most of the day. He went 30/37 for 284 yards, 3 TDs, and 32 more yards on the ground. The blemish on his stat line is the two interceptions.

Houston’s Cody Brown and Jeremiah Johnson brought in the two picks for the Roughnecks. Interceptions are bad enough, but both guys added big returns after the inceptions to the St. Louis 1 and 6-yard lines, respectively. The Roughnecks didn’t miss a beat on offense following the interceptions adding two touchdowns with only a short field to work with. 

Trading First Half Punches

The opening drive for the Roughnecks started with a 37-yard kick return by Houston’s Ajene Harris. Houston moved the ball this series but the BattleHawk defense held them to a 44-yard field goal. 

The BattleHawks answered the Roughnecks opener with an opening drive touchdown for themselves. Both Matt Jones and Christine Michael started in the backfield with Jones getting the first carry of the day. 

The drive was highlighted by a 27-yard connection between Keith Mumphrey and Ta’amu and finished off with a short pass to Jones for a nice 25-yard catch and run touchdown to give St. Louis a 6-3 lead. 

Not stopping there, Houston responded with a 6 play 66-yard drive ending in the end zone on a PJ Walker pass to Cam Phillips putting the Roughnecks up 12-6; this duo went on to connect for 3 TDs together on the night.

St. Louis struggled to move the ball for the remainder of the first half. There next four drives went punt, punt, interception, turn over on downs. They went into halftime down 21-6.

Opening drives to start a game are usually scripted/ predetermined as part of a team’s gameplan. St. Louis opened their first drive by utilizing four straight plays with a man in motion, and 6 of 9 plays on the touchdown scoring drive. The remainder of the half saw very little motion. For something to be planned and executed well on the first drive and then thrown out for almost the remainder of the game wasn’t something you like to see. 

Second Half Sparks

Coming out to start the second half, the BattleHawks strung together a 13 play drive. Ta’amu and Pierson-El connected for a 23 yard gain, the pair finished off the drive connecting on a 1-yard reception to make the score 21-12. 

After the BattleHawks defense forced a 3 and out, the offense marched back down the field for another 13 play drive capped off by a 4 yard run by Ta’amu. This closed Houston’s lead to 3, 21-18. 

Not to be overlooked in the game is the BattleHawks defense. Week 1 they didn’t give up a touchdown against the Dallas Renegades. Many people brushed this off since the Renegades were without starting QB Landry Jones. 

Don’t let the 28 points-against be the nail in the coffin for this unit. 13 of those points only required the Roughnecks to move the ball a combined 7 yards. Houston was moving the ball well in the first half picking up big chunk plays of 33 and 20 yards. 

As good as the offense was in the second half, the defense was a half-step ahead of them to close out the night. The biggest play they gave up in the second half was a 15-yard scramble by Walker, the drive ended in Houston punting. 

Sacks were elusive on the night largely due to PJ Walker’s awareness in the pocket. Andrew Ankrah was the only one able to record a sack on the day, also bringing home a team-high two tackles for a loss. Cornerback Darius Hillary also played a great game on defense. Hillary was tracking the ball well barely missing two picks, he was jumping the routes like crazy. 

Controversial No-Call

The controversial point in the game came with less than 11 minutes left in the 4th quarter. A perfect punt by Houston’s Austin Rehkow and a pair of offsides by the offense had the BattleHawks back up to their own one-yard line. After clawing their way into Roughneck territory, Ta’amu and the offensive line saw Roughneck MLB Frank Ginda jump offsides. Assuming the refs saw the play and called it, Ta’amu had a free play and threw the ball up to the receiver with the deepest route. Not a single ref threw their flag and Ta’amu’s lob was picked off. 

Ta’amu throws the ball in this situation thinking the play has only upside and any negative play will be taken off the board due to the defensive penalty. The no-call reversed the course of the game with 7 point swing in favor of the Roughnecks.

This season, XFL refs have called games very well. The use of the replay official in the booth has added transparency and is appreciated league-wide. It will be interesting to see how the XFL responds to this potentially game-changing call, arguably the biggest on the year so far.

The BattleHawks would drive and score one more TD with less than 2 minutes remaining in the game to make it 28-24. But the damage was done and Houston hung on to win a thriller, 28-24. 

In the end, Houston won the turnover battle 2-0 and that was the difference-maker this week. The teams competed for all four quarters and we all got to see a great game a football. 

The BattleHawks come home next Sunday, February 23rd for their home opener against the New York Guardians. 

Expect The Dome to be full and the stadium to be popping because football will be back in St. Louis!

Fight and fly on, BattleHawk Nation.

Week Two Preview: Roughnecks vs. BattleHawks

The Roughnecks are coming off a great home opener win with PJ Walker earning the very first Star of the Week honors for the XFL. (Credit XFL.com)

The first week of the XFL season is now in the record books and Week 2 is well underway and football fans have quickly and pleasantly discovered that the XFL is “for real.”  National television broadcast coverage,  combined with a compelling new league and a new brand of football have fans buzzing about the XFL.  From faster games to new rules (the kickoff and multiple conversion try rules stick out), many fans are starting to see the XFL as a league in their own right and not just another spring “minor” league for the NFL.

One of the interesting story lines this week is the matchup between the Run and Shoot offense of the Houston Roughnecks against the visiting St. Louis BattleHawks.  The back story behind the BattleHawks lies in their victory over the heavily favored Dallas Renegades last Sunday.  The BattleHawks were the only road team to earn a win last week, albeit they beat a Landry Jones-less Renegades team.  This does not negate their 15-9 victory over Dallas as they held the Renegades to only 1 of 10 on third down conversions and largely stymied the Dallas offense.

The Roughnecks are coming off a great home opener win with PJ Walker earning the very first Star of the Week honors for the XFL.  Walker clearly showed off the Run and Shoot mentality of head coach June Jones by going 23 for 29 on pass completions for 298 yards and 4 passing touchdowns.  The Roughnecks also showed off defensive prowess by leading the league Week 1 with a stingy rush defense.  This will be a critical part of the Roughnecks defensive plan this week as the BattleHawks heavily relied on a ground attack in the 15-9 win by carrying the ball 42 times for 191 yards including Matt Jones who carried 21 times for 85 yards and QB Jordan Ta’amu also carrying the ball 9 times for 77 yards as well.  However, Matt Jones is listed as questionable for tomorrow’s game and fellow BattleHawks RB Keith Ford has been listed as being out as well.  Houston is listed as a 7.5 point favorite and this week’s matchup should be another entertaining game as one undefeated team will suffer their first loss in this young XFL season.

XFL Week 2 Injury Report

Saturday, February 15:

New York Guardians (1-0) at DC Defenders (1-0), 2 pm ET (ABC).

New York Guardians: There is some reason for concern here for the Guardians, as two of their three starting interior offensive linemen C Ian Silberman and G Garrett Brumfield have already been ruled OUT for Saturday’s game. Fortunately, their replacements are center Damien Mama and guard Avery Young who both have NFL experience and are more than capable of stepping in for them. The only active player that was unable to play last week due to an illness was TE Keenan Brown, who will make his debut on Saturday. Brown is talented and will join former Monmouth University TE Jake Powell on the depth chart, who played very well as the starter last game, catching 4 passes on 6 targets for 28 yards. 

DC Defenders: WR DeAndre Thompkins and LB Scooby Wright were unable to play in last week’s opener but they will make their debut this week against the Guardians. Thompkins, a former Penn State receiver, is listed as a starter over Week 1 stars; Eli Rogers and Rashad Ross, so it will be interesting to see if his return affects their target share. The only player who is listed questionable is backup DT Kalani Vakameilalo.

Tampa Bay Vipers (0-1) at Seattle Dragons (0-1), 5 pm ET (FOX).

Tampa Bay Vipers: Vipers starting QB Aaron Murray has been officially ruled OUT for this week’s game due to a foot injury. The former Georgia Bulldog all-time passer struggled in last week’s loss against the Guardians, throwing 2 interceptions, 0 touchdowns, with a QB rating of 45.1. The replacement quarterback options are former Cincinnati Bengals RB and University of South Florida start QB Quinton Flowers, as well as Taylor Cornelius and Chase Litton, so we’ll have to keep an eye on that. Bobby Richardson and TE DeAndre Goolsby are listed as questionable.

Seattle Dragons: The injury bug has hit the Seattle Dragon real hard; as eight players have missed practice so far this week. The most notable name is starting QB Brandon Silvers, who suffered an ankle injury last week against DC. Former University of South Florida star B.J. Daniels would be called upon in relief of Silvers if he’s unable to go, but he is probable so Silvers should be good to start. Starting WR Kasen Williams, OT Isaiah Battle and TE Cam Clear each missed last week’s game and have once again been ruled OUT. Also, starting center Dillon Day is listed as doubtful, left guard Cyril Richardson, DT Anthony Moten, TE Ben Johnson, and CB Mohammed Seisay are questionable.

Sunday, February 16:

Dallas Renegades (0-1) at LA Wildcats (0-1), 3 pm ET (ABC).

Dallas Renegades: The Landry Jones-Bob Stoops era in Dallas will officially begin on Sunday afternoon, as Landry Jones has recovered from the knee injury he suffered last month and will start against the Wildcats. Phillip Nelson replaced Jones as the starter for the Renegades last week and will head back to the bench. Third string Eric Dungey is taking a brief leave of absence for personal reasons, so they’ve signed former HBO Hard Knocks fan favorite Brogan Roback for depth. Starting DE Winston Craig and LB Jon Calvin haven’t participated in practice so far this week and Hau’oli Kikaha is questionable with limited participation.

LA Wildcats: Last week, starting QB Chad Kanoff looked pretty impressive; despite the 20-point loss they suffered against Houston. Kanoff finished with a stat-line of 21-39, 214 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT, but unfortunately left the game after suffering a head/shoulder injury. Kanoff replaced Josh Johnson due to a thigh injury he suffered, but now Johnson has recovered and is expected to start. There are three contributing players that haven’t participated in practice so far this week to keep an eye on; WR Saeed Blacknall, RB/WR DuJuan Harris, CB Jaylen Dunlap. 

St. Louis BattleHawks (1-0) at Houston Roughnecks, 6 pm ET (FS1).

St. Louis BattleHawks: Much like the Seattle Dragons; the BattleHawks have been hit hard with injuries, as five players are questionable and have not practiced so far this week. DE Will Clarke, WR Brandon Reilly, CB David Rivers, RB Matt Jones and Keith Ford. For fantasy purposes, definitely look out for the status of Jones and Ford, because if they’re both unable to go; Christine Michael is for a ton of action. It’s definitely a bit concerning that Michael had 0 yards on 7 carries, but the majority of their run game when through Jones on 21 carries for 85 yards, so if he and Ford are out Michael will get another chance as the starter.

Houston Roughnecks: Former Denver Broncos RB De’Angelo Henderson suffered a shoulder injury early last game against the Wildcats forcing him to leave the game. Henderson’s status is in doubt for this week, as he’s yet to practice this week, which would potentially but James Butler in line for a quality workload. Their other notable injury to watch is DE Cashaud Lyons who hasn’t practiced this week.

St. Louis BattleHawks: A Team for the Fans

St. Louis BattleHawks

Missouri, a state celebrating arguably the biggest trophy in all of sports with the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs bringing home the Lombardi Trophy winning Super Bowl 54. The best way to continue this historic feeling of peak football is obviously more football. Cue the St. Louis BattleHawks. For 21 years, fans packed The Dome and supported their Rams, that is the Super Bowl Champion St. Louis Rams. The team was not able to sustain The Greatest Show on Turf later falling into a 10-year playoff drought and subsequent relocation spurred by, his name who should only be used in vain, new team owner Stan Kroenke. Just like that, the magic of the Rams was ripped from the fans and the city. 

The St. Louis BattleHawks are not a replacement for the Rams. They are an addition to the city and the passionate fan base supporting the true hometown teams. This is the only current XFL franchise not sharing a city with an NFL team. The BattleHawks aren’t just for the hometown crowd. It’s open season to pick an XFL team; this fan base is passionate, committed, and growing rapidly. 

Take a look at the online footprint each team has on Twitter (parentheses represent growth in followers over the last 7 days).

  1. St. Louis BattleHawks: 77.3K (+31.3K)
  2. DC Defenders: 62.8K (+30.7K)
  3. Dallas Renegades 61.4K (+22.3K)
  4. Houston Roughnecks: 53K (+20.9K)
  5. New York Guardians: 49.3K (+21.3K)
  6. Seattle Dragons: 45K (+15.1K) 
  7. Tampa Bay Vipers: 44.6K (+15.4K)
  8. LA Wildcats: 34.2K (+11.9K)

What the fans are saying

The best way to see how people view the XFL and the BattleHawks is to hear it directly from them. I did just that and got folks reaction to the new league and team.

Rob from Olathe thinks the XFL has staying power. The authentic approach of the XFL this time around shows they mean business.

Media companies and TV deals are significant. The two major networks contracted are Disney, with games on ABC, ESPN, and ESPN 2; and Fox, with games on Fox, FS1, and FS2. Like Saturday and Sunday during the NCAA and NFL season, fans will be amongst familiar channels and crews supporting these games giving it that authentic football. 

Rob also talked about the innovation the league is embracing and trying out. While he doesn’t think every single change will stick, he is all for trying. The XFL has made every indication that they will continue to evolve and adapt the game. Feedback given the NFL has not incorporated has been listened to by the XFL. A tip of the hat to fans from the XFL catering the product to the consumer. 

BattleHawk Mafia (Kyle) from St. Louis talked about how this city is poised to take off as a fan base and as a team. The social media presence has been a great start to engage fans prior to the season kicking off. St. Louis is a football city and this is a chance for everyone out there to show the NFL what they’re missing. He’s ready for game day with the crew, some drinks in The Dome, and BattleHawk football. He reflected about how going to games creates lifelong bonds between parents and children along with friends.

Ryan from St. Louis joins the city as a transplant but has no doubts about the fan base in the city making this an easy choice for him to root for the BattleHawks. He shared thoughts on what this league can become. First, he’s happy to see former NFL guys get second chances. While the XFL and NFL aren’t affiliated, most guys share the goal to make it to the NFL. Channeling his soccer fandom, Ryan said once the league is built up and established he’d like to see a Premier League-esque system where XFL teams change places with poor-performing NFL teams. 

Cory from Nashville shares Ryan’s excitement to see the talent in the league have a chance to succeed. One guy in particular is Jordan Ta’amu, the BattleHawks QB who produced a ton at Ole Miss. He highlights Ta’amu’s ability to move around the pocket and keep plays alive (something we saw a lot of week 1). He’s excited about Will Hill, former Safety in the NFL, to patrol the backfield (Hill notched an interception week 1 against the Dallas Renegades). It’s guys like Hill and others who show the league as a whole has high caliber talent on the rosters. Fun note, Cory gave these answers before these guys put up stellar first games.

The sense I got from the fans I talked with is that they are ready, the city is ready, and nation is ready for BattleHawk football.

Getting Over the Hurdle

It is fair to acknowledge this league and team don’t come without risk. The UFL, AAF, and even a previous version of the XFL closed their doors after brief stints of existence, the AAF not even making it through their first season. There may be some former Rams fans who are hesitant to jump on board risking another heartbreak and even additional people not wanting to waste their time due to new league fatigue.

The barriers for a successful league exist and are no small feat. The sports world has seen leagues come in go, and heck, the first version of the XFL has been used as a gold standard of what not to do this time around. And that’s the beauty of it. This XFL is not the XFL of 2001 and the only resemblances the two share are the name and the man up top, Vince McMahon. 

A good reminder is that the XFL is a work in progress. The league is stepping in to help evolve the game of football fans know today. Some changes will be great and some changes wont be, but expect a product that will continue to develop to meet and exceed expectations.

Having seen a successful week one in the league, hopefully some of the hesitation has been put to rest. Buzz in the news is increasing week over week, fan bases are growing, and now more than ever is a great time to support the league.

To those XFL fans undecided on a team to follow and those interested seeing what the league is about, there is no wrong choice when picking a team. But I know one fan base who knows there is a right choice. 

And hey, America doesn’t have a team yet in this league…just saying.

Fight and Fly On, BattleHawk Nation.

Did you miss some of the action week one of BattleHawk football? Check out this game recap.