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 St. Louis Battlehawks

Week 2 Game Notes

April 2, 2024 - United Football League (UFL)
St. Louis Battlehawks News Release


Series Notes: The Battlehawks and Renegades meet for the third time, overall, with St. Louis winning both of the first two matchups during the 2020 and 2023 seasons in the XFL. The Battlehawks triumphed over the Bob Stoops-led Renegades, 15-9, at Choctaw Stadium in Arlington in the first game of the 2020 XFL season. St. Louis also defeated Arlington, 24-11, in its Week 4 home opener of the 2023 season.

This will be the first time the teams have clashed as conference foes. St. Louis and Arlington resided in opposite conferences in both the 2020 and 2023 XFL seasons. St. Louis finished the 2023 season 7-3 and missed the XFL playoffs. Arlington won the 2023 XFL Championship after going 4-6 in the regular season.

HOME SWEET DOME

The St. Louis Battlehawks will hold their home opener earlier in their schedule than either of their first two seasons when they welcome the Arlington Renegades to The Dome at America's Center for an XFL Division contest Saturday, April 6 at 7 p.m. CT. The game will be broadcast on ABC and simulcast on ESPN Xtra on SiriusXM Radio. Arlington was St. Louis' opponent for its home opener in Week 4 of the 2023 season when the Battlehawks drew an XFL-record 38,810 fans to The Dome for a 24-11 victory. The Battlehawks did not host their first home game of the 2020 XFL season until Week 3, beating the New York Guardians, 29-9.

The Battlehawks will alternate home and away games throughout their entire 10-week schedule in 2024.

They will return to the road for a Week 3 matchup against the San Antonio Brahmas of the XFL Conference on Sunday, April 14 at 2 p.m. CT on ABC and ESPN Xtra on Sirius XM Radio.

FAMILIAR FACES

- Battlehawks Head Coach Anthony Becht played for the St. Louis Rams in 2008.

- Offensive Coordinator Bruce Gradkowski (2008), Defensive Line Coach La'Roi Glover (2006-08), Linebackers Coach Chris Claiborne, (2005), General Manager Dave Boller (2004-07), Equipment Manager Todd Hewitt (1995-2011), and Vice President of Team Business and Event Operations Brandon Williams (2007) were also part of the St. Louis Rams organization.

- Wide Receiver Darrius Shepherd (Blue Springs) and Defensive Lineman Freedom Akinmoladun (Grandview) are both from western Missouri.

HEARTBREAKER IN DETROIT

The Battlehawks dropped their first game of the 2024 UFL season, 18-16, to the Michigan Panthers after K Jake Bates drilled a 64-yard field goal with 8 seconds remaining in Saturday's contest at Ford Field in Detroit.

St. Louis had taken a 16-15 lead with 54 seconds left in regulation when QB A.J. McCarron connected with WR Marcell Ateman for a 5-yard touchdown pass on a 4th-and-goal play. McCarron then hit TE Jake Sutherland for a 1-yard completion on an extra point attempt.

The fourth quarter saw four lead changes after the Panthers entered the final quarter with a 7-3 advantage. Michigan had embarked on a 93-yard touchdown drive that gave them their first lead with 5:32 left in the third quarter. Panthers QB E.J. Perry rushed for each of Michigan's touchdowns.

The Battlehawks erased the first deficit on a 5-yard touchdown pass from McCarron to Sutherland with 7:55 left in regulation. K Andre Szmyt gave the Battlehawks a 3-0 lead with a 36-yard field goal at the end of the first half.

DFW CONNECTIONS

The Battlehawks have two players on their roster who were born in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, while several members of the Arlington roster and staff have ties to previous versions of the Battlehawks.

WR Marcell Ateman hails from Wylie, Texas, and was named First Team All- Area by the Dallas Morning News for Wylie East High School. He went on to play collegiately at Okla. St. and being drafted by the Oakland Raiders in 2018.

DE Pita Taumoepenu was born in the Dallas suburb of Euless, Texas, but moved to the Polynesian country of Tonga when he was 3 months old.

Arlington Offensive Coordinator Chuck Long was the OC/QB coach on the 2020 Battlehawks staff, Defensive Coordinator Jay Hayes served in the same role and Tight Ends/Running Backs Coach Reggie Davis was the Battlehawks Running Backs Coach in 2020.

Five Renegades players suited up for St. Louis in 2020: DL Will Clarke, DB Will Hill, DT DaVonte Lambert, P Marquette King and K Taylor Russolino.

WR Caleb Vander Esch was in training camp with the Battlehawks prior to the 2023 season.

GETTING THE BAND BACK TOGETHER

The Battlehawks have 24 players on their roster who were with the organization a year ago, as well, including nine players who were All-XFL honorees: WR Hakeem Butler, OG Steven Gonzalez, OT Jaryd Jones- Smith, C Mike Panasiuk and WR Jahcour Pearson (Seattle) on offense; DB Lavert Hill, LB Pita Taumoepenu (Vegas) and DT Austin Faoliu (Seattle) on defense; and WR Darrius Shepherd on special teams.

Head Coach Anthony Becht is also back for a second season along with four coaches from the 2023 squad. Offensive Coordinator Bruce Gradkowski, Defensive Coordinator Donnie Abraham, Defensive Line Coach La'Roi Glover and Linebackers Coach Chris Claiborne have all returned in their same roles.

ST. LOUIS BATTLEHAWKS BY THE NUMBERS

175,121 Combined attendance for the Battlehawks' five home games in 2023, which led the XFL

391 Days since the Battlehawks last played at The Dome at America's Center (March 12, 2023 vs. Arlington Renegades)

41 Different colleges and universities represented as the most recent alma mater for players on the Battlehawks active roster

164 All-purpose yards for WR Darrius Shepherd in Week 1 at Michigan (2nd in UFL), including a 48-yard kick return in the fourth quarter.

244 Combined games of NFL experience on the Battlehawks active roster

2 Touchdown passes for QB A.J. McCarron in Week 1 at Michigan. He has thrown mutliple TD passes in eight of his 10 career Battlehawks games.

NEW ADDITIONS

The Battlehawks have also added 27 players who are new to the organization, including the 2023 XFL Defensive Player of the Year DE Pita Taumoepenu, All-XFL honoree DT Austin Faoliu and WR Jahcour Pearson, the league's leading receiver from 2023 and All-XFL Team Offense honoree.

Taumoepenu led the XFL with four forced fumbles and ranked second in the league with 7.5 sacks while playing for the Vegas Vipers. He totaled 26 tackles and ranked T-6th in the league with eight tackles for loss. Taumoepenu signed with the New York Jets in August, and he spent training camp and the NFL preseason with the organization before becoming a free agent.

Faoliu played for the Seattle Sea Dragons of the XFL in 2023, racking up 24 tackles (11 solo) with one sack in 10 regular-season games. He signed with the Seattle Seahawks after the completion of the XFL season and played in two regular-season contests for the Seahawks, making one tackle in Week 17 vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers. He had also previously played two games with the Dallas Cowboys in 2021.

The Battlehawks acquired Pearson with the second overall pick in the 2024 UFL Dispersal Draft held in January. As a member of the 2023 Seattle Sea Dragons, Pearson led the XFL with 60 receptions and 670 receiving yards while scoring four touchdowns. He also led the league with 32 catches for first down. He will begin the season on Injured Reserve with a right knee injury.

Head Coach Anthony Becht also has four new coaches on his staff for the 2024 season. Martin Bayless is the Defensive Secondary Coach, Kyle Caskey signed on as the Running Backs/Special Teams Coach, Phil McGoeghan joined the team as the Wide Receivers Coach and Gino Gradkowski is the Offensive Line Coach. He is the younger brother of Battlehawks Offensive Coordinator Bruce Gradkowski.

HOME OPENER PEP RALLY

The Battlehawks will host a pep rally at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the outdoor stage at Ballpark Village. The event will feature player and coach appearances, as well as activities and prizes to get fans primed for the 2024 home opener.

'PRETTY SICK'

WR Marcell Ateman led the Battlehawks receiving corps with a game-high six catches for 60 yards Saturday at Michigan. Two of those catches came in particularly crucial situations during the fourth quarter.

The native of the Dallas suburb of Wylie, Texas, made a 25-yard reception along the sideline on a 4th-and-10 play that got the Battlehawks to Michigan's 4 yard line with 1:59 to play. He then caught a 5-yard touchdown pass on 4th-and-goal with 54 seconds left to tie the game, 15-15. Head Coach Anthony Becht termed Ateman's catches as "pretty sick" during his Monday press conference.

A 7th round pick by the Oakland Raiders in 2018 who has played in 19 NFL games, Ateman played for the Battlehawks in 2023 and was second on the team with 13.6 yards-per-reception, third with 259 receiving yards and third with five catches of at least 20 yards.

JAKE ATTACK

TE Jake Sutherland was instrumental in both of St. Louis' comebacks in the fourth quarter Saturday at Michigan.

Sutherland caught the Battlehawks' first touchdown of the season with a 5-yard grab to give them a 9-7 lead with 7:55 left in the game. He then caught a 1-yard pass to convert an extra-point attempt that gave St. Louis a 16-15 lead with 54 second to go in regulation.

The 28-year-old Michigan native also caught the Battlehawks' longest pass completion of the game when he snagged a 27-yard pass from QB A.J. McCarron with 2:39 to play in the third quarter.

MCCARRON MAGIC

QB A.J. McCarron started his second season with St. Louis by going 24-for- 37 for 216 yards with a pair of touchdowns and no interceptions Saturday at Michigan.

McCarron was one of two UFL quarterbacks to throw for multiple touchdowns in the season's opening weekend, joining San Antonio QB Chase Garber for the league lead. He has thrown multiple touchdown passes in eight of his 10 career games with St. Louis. McCarron also ranks second in the league in completions and passing yards.

McCarron is back with the Battlehawks this season after he set the XFL record for touchdown passes with 24 in 2023. He then signed with the Cincinnati Bengals, joining the practice squad Sept. 23 and reaching the active roster on Dec. 4. He played in two games for the Bengals, going a combined 4-for-5 for 19 yards to finish of victories in Week 14 vs. Indianapolis and Week 18 vs. Cleveland.

As the Battlehawks' starting QB in 2023, McCarron played in nine games.

He finished the season with an XFL-best 68.8 percent completion rate and 24-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He also led the league with 25 total touchdowns. McCarron ranked second with 203 completions and 2,150 passing yards despite missing Week 8 because of an injury.

DANGEROUS DARRIUS

Darrius Shepherd, the 2023 XFL Special Teams Player of the Year, picked up where he left off Saturday with 164 all-purpose yards, including a 48-yard kick return that set up the Battlehawks second touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, which put them ahead briefly, 16-15.

Shepherd ranks second in the league after Week 1 in all-purpose yards and third with 102 total kick return yards. He also had a 23-yard punt return in the first quarter. From scrimmage, Shepherd made five catches for 34 yards.

SPEAKING DEFENSIVELY

The Battlehawks were one of two teams, along with the Arlington Renegades, to lead the UFL with two interceptions in the first week of the season.

MLB Mike Rose stopped Michigan's second drive of the game with his first pick of the season, and FS Qwnterrio Cole made his first Battlehawks interception at his own goal line in the second quarter on a pass tipped by S Dravon Askew-Henry. The Battlehawks defense is tied for the league lead with six pass breakups.

LB Willie Harvey led the St. Louis defense with a team-high seven tackles, including a team-high five solo tackles, to go with a team-leading two pass breakups. The Iowa State product also matched DE Travis Feeney for the team lead with 2.0 tackles for loss.

TRANSACTION

The Battlehawks signed LB Chris Garrett and waived DE Elorm Lumor on Monday.

Garrett returns to the Battlehawks after they selected him in the UFL Super Dispersal Draft in January. He played in two games for the Houston Gamblers of the USFL in 2023.

The 25-year-old was a 7th round selection of the Los Angeles Rams in the 2017 NFL Draft and played in one game, a Week 3 win vs. Tampa Bay, during the team's Super Bowl LVI-winning season. He has also spent time on the practice squads for the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks.


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