The days of the undefeated Houston Roughnecks feel as recent as the Victorian era and the sense of Roughneck supremacy has all but shattered. With their loss to the St. Louis Battlehawks, the Roughnecks have now dropped three in a row, falling to a record of 4-3. Despite still leading the division, the XFL South has become nearly anyone’s game.
The XFL North is as fierce as ever. With their second win in a row, St. Louis joins Seattle with a 5-2 record and are just a game behind the Defenders for first place. Orlando’s massive upset against the Defenders has turned the division into a complete tossup once more.
St. Louis is scheduled to play their last three games at home. The value of their home crowd cannot be understated—they have the chance to make some serious ground in these last three weeks.
Come game time, XFL fans were greeted with the spectacle they had fervently waited for: pickleball.
Perhaps not, but fans were forced to patiently wait until deep into the first quarter for the broadcast to switch over to the game. Fans didn’t miss any points, but they did miss out on a pair of costly turnovers on both side’s opening drive.
St. Louis’ Brian Hill, who had been dominant through the first six weeks of the season, shockingly lost the ball on the very first play of the game. Houston was able to recover, and proceeded to drive down the field. Instead of capitalizing on their opponent’s mistake, however, Houston proceeded to make one of their own. Facing pressure, Houston quarterback Cole McDonald made a throw across the field for an untimely interception.
St. Louis responded with a drive of their own (thankfully with the broadcast on the air), ending with an excellent catch by Gary Jennings for the first touchdown of the day. The following 2-point conversion, however, was unsuccessful.
The Battlehawks were not deterred, retaking the lead just five minutes later on an “unbelievable catch” by Hakeem Butler. If one catch wasn’t enough, Butler found the endzone once again on the ensuing 2-point conversion, giving St. Louis a 14-6 lead.
A pair of excellent runs by Max Borghi and Dejoun Lee would put the Roughnecks in field goal range, allowing them to cut the lead down to five.
St. Louis was unable to counter on their next drive, and with less than 30 seconds left on the clock, it appeared the half was all but over. It certainly wasn’t, however, as the Roughnecks were unable to run out the clock, giving St. Louis the ball back with just enough time to get into field goal range.
Field goal range was pushing it, given the ensuing attempt was from 59-yards, but Donny Hageman proved himself up to the task.
The third quarter was completely devoid of scoring, with both sides unable to break through the opposing defense. It remained a one score game with plenty of drama left for the fourth quarter.
With the Battlehawks looking to increase their lead with 11 minutes to play, Brian Hill fumbled the ball again, turning the game completely on its head. The ball bounced right into the hands of Houston DB Will Likely (which I can’t say was particularly likely), and with no one to stop him, he ran the ball back for a much needed six points.
A 2-point conversion was all that was needed to tie the game, but Cole McDonald was unable to get the job done. The score was 17-15 with 10 minutes to play.
The momentum appeared to have swung in the Houston Roughnecks favor, but Brian Hill was determined to redeem himself. The St. Louis native secured several critical first downs on the following drive, giving quarterback AJ McCarron the opportunity to put the game away with a touchdown pass to Darrius Shepherd.
Brian Hill ran the ball in for the 1-point conversion, putting the score at its final resting spot, 24-15. The Roughnecks were unable to drive down the field, resulting in their third consecutive loss.
The St. Louis Battlehawks are the real deal. They’ve pulled off a number of convincing victories against solid opponents, and even in their losses against the Defenders have kept the games competitive. Having put on another stellar performance, AJ McCarron is starting to look like the frontrunner for MVP. He leads the league with 17 passing touchdowns while having the highest completion percentage for QBs with over 1,000 passing yards. On top of this, he keeps his mistakes to a minimum, having thrown only four interceptions this year.
The rest of the St. Louis offense continues to play excellent as well. Despite Brian Hill’s two costly fumbles, he managed to come through in the fourth quarter to seal the win. With his incredible touchdown catch, Hakeem Butler is tied for the league lead in touchdown catches with five. Darius Shepard stands right behind him with four of his own.
Despite all of these incredible performances and coming out with the win, St. Louis still possesses a highly less favorable situation than Houston. Houston’s divisional rivals all possess losing records heading into Week 8, while the XFL North has three teams with a record of 5-2 or better (sorry Vegas). Given that only two teams in each division can make the playoffs, the Battlehawks have a tough road ahead of them.
Houston’s offense looked lackluster, which isn’t a huge surprise given the injury to quarterback Brandon Silvers. Cole McDonald made a number of mistakes throughout the game, but was also able to put together a nice play from time to time. Unfortunately for Houston, it wasn’t enough.
Getting Silvers back would be a huge boost for the Roughnecks heading into the homestretch. If he isn’t available next week, McDonald will definitely need to show some improvement. Having shown potential with his arm and rushing ability, it’s certainly not impossible that he’ll be able to step it up.
The Houston Roughnecks completely control their fate facing both the Brahmas and Renegades in Weeks 8 and 10 respectively. Whether they’ll be able to complete the job is up in the air.
What did you think of this game between the St. Louis Battlehawks and Houston Roughnecks? Which XFL players impressed you the most? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!