Arlington Renegades vs. St. Louis Battlehawks | Week 9 Preview | Sal Cannella

Arlington Renegades vs. St. Louis Battlehawks | Week 9 Preview

Week nine in the UFL kicks off with the Arlington Renegades taking on the St. Louis Battlehawks. While these two teams contrast each other in the standings, both are closer than one may think when it comes to the talent rostered.

Heading into this game, the St. Louis Battlehawks just clinched the playoffs. They’re rolling with a 6-2 record, with losses to two teams in the USFL Conference. On the XFL side, they’ve been just fine. Even with Manny Wilkins at the helm last week, the offense posted 26 points.

Arlington, on the other hand, always finds a way to lose in close games. They are a much better team than their 1-7 record reflects, with the leadership of Luis Perez. Things simply have not gone their way in 2024, leading to their place at the bottom of the totem pole in the XFL Conference.

This game is expected to be a back and forth affair, so let’s take a look at what we can expect. When these two teams played in week two, St. Louis won on a walk off field goal, 27-24.

Quarterback Play

Luis Perez, the King Of Spring, has been one of the best quarterbacks in the UFL. He’s had very little help from the supporting cast, resulting in their 1-7 record. Perez currently leads the league in passing yards, completion percentage, and is third with 12 touchdowns. He has also tossed just two interceptions, tied for the best in the UFL.

Now, someone to keep an eye on this week is Holton Ahlers, who is on the active roster for the first time all season. The former ECU standout has been longing for an opportunity all year, and might just get it this weekend.

On St. Louis’ side, A.J. McCarron is still dealing with his ankle issues. He is QB2 this week, though, behind Manny Wilkins.

Wilkins, while completing only 50% of his pass attempts against DC, played a solid game. His legs were crucial to the victory, and one would expect his mobility to play a key role in this outing as well. Manny has some of the top targets and playmakers in the entire league. When he started last week, it was his first start in six years. While there is room for improvement, he certainly wasn’t expected to be perfect in his UFL debut.

Standout Playmakers

Arlington has an offense that has found its rhythm as of late. Sal Cannella, in particular, is taking the brunt of the targets from Luis Perez. He’s been stellar, continuing to dominate and making plays when the Renegades need him to.

What Arlington needs to do is get their guys involved earlier in the game. They went down big against San Antonio in the first half, unable to find their groove until it was a bit too late. With another one of their running backs now on IR, De’Veon Smith will also have to carry a large load.

The St. Louis Battlehawks are getting Jahcour Pearson back this week, which is obviously a nice lift. Marcell Ateman remains inactive, dealing with an illness.

Regardless, the Battlehawks are stacked. Hakeem Butler is absolutely dominating the UFL, with 606 receiving yards on the season. With his presence in the WR core, St. Louis will always be capable of doing serious damage.

On the ground, Wayne Gallman has come alive as of late, providing the Battlehawks with quality minutes. They’re going to need more of that this week, with Arlington having the second worst rushing defense in the UFL.

Battlehawks Defense vs. Perez

The St. Louis Battlehawks have been playing excellent defense this year. They have no shortage of talent on that side of the football. Up front, guys like Travis Feeney and Pita Taumoepenu have wreaked havoc all season long. In fact, Pita had three sacks in the first half alone when these two teams played each other last.

Willie Harvey and Mike Rose command the middle of the field, both with elite play this season. Harvey stuffs the stat sheets week in and week out, and is bound for an NFL contract once this year is complete.

The question at hand: can this secondary slow down Luis Perez, and generate some takeaways? St. Louis is 4th in the league with 11 turnovers created – intercepting Jordan Ta’amu twice this past weekend.

Defensive Coordinator Donnie Abraham spoke on how crucial it is for this team to stay unified behind the goal of stopping Perez. St. Louis nearly lost to him in week two, and don’t want that to happen again:

“Arlington is one of the top offenses in the league, so we’ll be focused. We have a lot to play for in this game. Arlington, despite their record – I don’t know how this team is 1-7 – when you watch them on film, they look pretty good offensively. Perez is doing a great job with the offense. They have good receivers, and they have a great tight end. We are going to have our work cut out for us. I expect plays to be made on both sides, and from us defensively. We somehow have to figure out a way to make more plays defensively than they do offensively.”

Comparing The Statistics

When it comes to the statistics between these two teams, they are closer than one would think:

  • Arlington is averaging 304.9 yards per game (2nd), St. Louis at 273.0 (5th)
  • St. Louis averages 28.1 points per game (2nd), Arlington at 22.4 (4th)
  • Arlington has 148 First Downs (2nd), St. Louis at 130 (5th)
  • Battlehawks are allowing 247.6 YPG (2nd), Arlington at 319.1 (7th)
  • St. Louis giving up 19.3 PPG (4th), Renegades at 24.5 (6th)
  • Both St. Louis and Arlington have turned the ball over only six times, tied for first

Where these teams differ dramatically is penalties. St. Louis is the least penalized team in the UFL with 32, while Arlington has committed 51 penalties (T-3rd). The Renegades have to play a clean game if they want to try and knock off the mighty Battlehawks.

Coaching Matchup

St. Louis Battlehawks | Anthony Becht: Anthony Becht, the “players coach” himself, has once again proven why he is perfect for the spring football scene. His Battlehawks clinched a playoff spot with a 6-2 record, overcoming the obstacles they faced a year ago. He’s keeping the team focused on the ultimate goal, while still locking in on what’s ahead on a week to week basis.

Anthony Becht spoke to the media this week on the importance of this game, and their focus on keeping Perez contained:

“[Luis is] super dangerous. He’s been on it. The last game he played, hell, three or four drops to start. Those are things that happen when your team is struggling. There’s certain areas that don’t quite execute when you need it. But we don’t want that to change against us. These are games where, really, it’s on me. I take the responsibility for not having let downs, not having the early start affect us. Again, understanding what the prize is, understanding what the reward is, understanding what the team gets out of this on a day to day basis…the players are ready, they know what’s at stake.”

Arlington Renegades | Bob Stoops: It’s been a tough year for Big Game Bob. His team is 1-7, and despite some excellent offensive production, they haven’t been able to get over the hump. With just two games left to play, Stoops should look to some of his younger athletes to give them opportunities to prove themselves before the season is over.

Final Thoughts

Even though these two teams have contrasting records, it should be a fun affair down at Choctaw Stadium. The Arlington Renegades have been competitive all year long, and things should be no different this weekend.

For St. Louis, they have to win to stay on track to lock up home field advantage over the San Antonio Brahmas. If they get a victory over Arlington, they can technically lock in that spot prior to their week ten matchup against the Brahmas.

The Arlington Renegades host the St. Louis Battlehawks this Saturday, at 12pm ET on ABC.

Full Roster Breakdowns: Arlington, St. Louis

What are your thoughts on this upcoming matchup between the St. Louis Battlehawks and Arlington Renegades? Which UFL players have to impress? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!