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Inside the XFL

by Fran Stuchbury
February 27, 2020 - XFL (XFL)

Professional football returned to St. Louis for the first time since December 17, 2015 when the XFL's St. Louis BattleHawks defeated the New York Guardians 29-9 Sunday.

The city of St. Louis had been without pro football for 1,529 days after NFL St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke decided to move to Los Angeles following the 2015 NFL season.

Back in 2019 the Alliance of American Football considered establishing a franchise in St. Louis but could not get enough dates at "The Dome." With the AAF folding after eight weeks, it worked out for the best as a football league with more resources, the XFL, placed one of its eight teams in St. Louis.

With the announced attendance of 29,554 with the entire lower level of the stadium sold out, fans embraced the XFL.

"I want to express my thanks and the team's thanks to all who came out," BattleHawks head coach Jonathan Hayes said. "That really ignited our players and got us excited. It really made it difficult for the other team."

Travis Heins of Saint Peters, Missouri attended the game and said, "Would say the game atmosphere was electric and reminiscent of early 2000s Rams culture. St. Louis proved that it has an appetite for competitive football and ownership of the XFL that has sincere intents for the city. The tailgates were every which way you could look in parking lots that have been vacant since 2015; you could've sworn the BattleHawks have been here for 30 years already. I was also amazed how many fans had gotten merchandise already and at the very least were wearing BattleHawks colors.

"I spoke with a 20 year usher in the dome to named Dorothy; she said she hasn't experience that type of energy in that building since early 2000s rams playoff runs.

In the second quarter the place erupted when they witnessed the first XFL kickoff return for a touchdown. St. Louis BattleHawks Joe Powell took a lateral from Keith Mumphery and returned it 84 yards for a score in the second quarter.

"We've been practicing it all week and guys have been blocking it really well," said Powell. "I saw the hole and went for it. Once I got the ball, I heard the crowd and when I thought I saw the opening, I ran down the sideline as fast as I can because I knew I had a chance to score."

Scott Anthony, who traveled four and a half hours from Jackson, Tennessee with his 10-year old daughter said, "It was great! Almost like a college atmosphere with the pregame activities and the player arrival. The game itself had a genuine professional feel to it. Crowd was great from start to finish. In the metro rail tunnel after the game a raucous chant broke out with one side of the tracks yelling Battle and the other side yelling Hawks. It was great! My daughter absolutely loved it. We went to a Tennessee Titans game a few months ago and she said she had more fun at the BattleHawks game than the Titans game."

Cries of "Ka-Kaw," mimicking a hawk's sound, broke out in the stands as well as the expected "Kroenke Sucks" chants.

The players seemed to enjoy playing off the crowd. St. Louis BattleHawks defensive tackle Casey Sayles gave an XFL football to a girl in exchange for some Girl Scout Cookies.

St. Louis' next home game is against Seattle Dragons on Saturday. Battlehawks President Kurt Hunzeker told The Fast Lane on @101espn the team has already sold 20,000 tickets and will open the upper bowl if they hit 25,000. The team may open up some of the upper level of "The Dome" for the third home game against the Los Angeles Wildcats on March 21st.

The BattleHawks home opener was a tremendous success for football fans in St. Louis and the XFL. At this point, the BattleHawks have the best home field advantage in the XFL.

Extra Points

  • Of the 23 touchdowns that were scored in week three, teams converted on two of five one-point attempts, five of fourteen two-point tries and one of four three point plays.

  • Here are all the scores from Week 3:

  • The Los Angeles Wildcats defense was amazing in their 39-9 victory over the undefeated DC Defenders, rolling up three sacks, five tackles for loss and four interceptions. Here are the highlights:

  • LA Wildcats wide receiver Nelson Spruce, who is second in the XFL in receiving yards with 256, will miss the road game against the New York Guardians due to a knee injury.

  • Houston Roughnecks wide receiver Cam Phillips has been on fire the past two weeks with 16 catches, 257 yards and six touchdowns. He is quarterback P.J. Walker's favorite target in their high-powered offense.

  • Dallas Renegades quarterback Landry Jones has won his first two XFL games after missing week one to a knee injury. The offense should further improve with the addition of former CFL wide receiver Armanti Edwards.

  • Seattle Dragons offensive tackle Isaiah Battle and wide receiver Reuben Mwehl will play Saturday against the St. Louis BattleHawks after missing the first three games due to injuries.

  • St. Louis BattleHawks running back Matt Jones leads the XFL in rushing with 224 yards.

  • The New York Guardians get much-needed help on the offensive line with the addition of offensive tackle Derek Dennis. He was a CFL all-star in 2016 and earned West Division all-star honors in 2016, 2018 and 2019. Dennis won a Grey Cup with the Calgary Stampeders the 2018 season.

  • With his offense struggling, Tampa Bay Vipers with head coach Marc Trestman relinquished play calling duties after the first two weeks. Offensive coordinator Jaime Elizondo called the plays, and the offense improved in a narrow 34-27 loss to the Houston Roughnecks. At 0-3 Tampa Bay faces a must-win home game against the DC Defenders on Sunday.

  • My XFL best bet lock of the week is the Houston Roughnecks -1 over the Dallas Renegades. The Roughnecks are hands down the best team in the XFL, scoring early and often with their run-and-shoot offense. This could be the best rivalry in the XFL. Expect Dallas to keep the game close for a while with Houston pulling away late on the road.

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