San Antonio Brahmas Stun Battlehawks For Championship Berth

San Antonio Brahmas Stun Battlehawks For Championship Berth

Just one week later, the San Antonio Brahmas and St. Louis Battlehawks are facing off again. This time, it’s win or go home. The XFL Conference Championship was hosted in St. Louis, with a trip to the UFL Championship on the line.

Last week, the Brahmas and Battlehawks dueled it out in a down to the wire affair. It was St. Louis who came away with the victory in the final seconds, with San Antonio missing what would have been a game winning field goal.

Both St. Louis and San Antonio finished the season with 7-3 records in the UFL. However, St. Louis has gotten the best of the Brahmas in both matchups this 2024 season.

With a chance for San Antonio to get their revenge – with a Championship appearance on the line – let’s take a look at what happened at The Dome.

First Quarter

The St. Louis Battlehawks opened up this game with the football, but were off to a rough offensive start. Two drops forced a punt, and San Antonio took over. They marched down the field quickly, with John Lovett and Jontre Kirklin ripping off big plays.

In the red zone, though, St. Louis and their defense would step up. Kameron Kelly stepped in front of a pass from Chase Garbers, picking it off to regain possession.

The ensuing drive for the Battlehawks would feature one of the wildest plays we’ve seen in the UFL. St. Louis attempted a trick play, but it was blown up by Tavante Beckett, which resulted in San Antonio recovering the football.

This time, Chase Garbers made sure the ball got to the right man in the end zone. He found Marquez Stevenson wide open for the score, and a PAT from Morgan Ellison made it 7-0.

The offensive struggles continued for St. Louis. Prince Emili came up with a sack on McCarron on third down, which led to another punt from the Battlehawks. Heading into the second quarter, the Brahmas had a 7-0 lead, and the football in their hands.

Second Quarter

It couldn’t have gone any better for San Antonio to open up this period. Chase Garbers threaded the needle on a pass to Justin Smith, who broke away for a massive touchdown. Just like that, it was 13-0 with San Antonio in front.

The Battlehawks were finally able to put something positive together. Wayne Gallman put them in scoring position quickly – but the third down issues continued. A deep pass to Hakeem Butler was ruled incomplete, and St. Louis settled for a 46 yard field goal from Andre Szmyt.

While St. Louis finally forced a punt from the Brahmas, their offense still couldn’t find a way to be consistent. Caeveon Patton sacked A.J. to end the drive, and the Battlehawks punted it back.

The Brahmas looked to be in a position to score late, but the Battlehawks defense stepped up to the challenge, keeping it a 13-3 ball game. However, St. Louis decided to run a couple of pointless plays at the end of the half – which resulted in McCarron getting banged up, and limping off the field at halftime.

Third Quarter

The St. Louis Battlehawks were uncharacteristically out of sorts today. To open up the second half, McCarron was somehow able to come out on the field, and took the field as the Brahmas had to punt on their first possession of the third quarter. However, the Battlehawks couldn’t get out of their own way, with penalties resulting in another punt.

San Antonio made them pay. Anthony McFarland got the ball in his hands, and broke free for a 70 yard touchdown, and the Brahmas took a 19-3 lead.

For the first time all game, the Battlehawks were able to make something happen offensively. Jacob Saylors had a couple of huge runs to put them in San Antonio territory. Then, on 4th and 5, McCarron threw it up to Hakeem Butler who made an unreal catch, keeping the drive alive.

This led to McCarron finding Jake Sutherland for a touchdown, and St. Louis made it a 19-9 ball game.

Things took a bit of a wild turn in the Battlehawks’ favor. Chase Garbers and Anthony McFarland botched an exchange to each other, which resulted in Pita Taumoepenu picking up the loose ball and taking it to the house – and within a matter of seconds, it was a four point game.

John Lovett and McFarland are quite possibly the best one-two punch in the UFL. Lovett burst free for a big gain, which ultimately set up a Ryan Santoso field goal attempt, and San Antonio held a 22-15 lead.

With fifteen minutes left to play for a Championship appearance, it was a seven point affair in favor of the visitors.

Fourth Quarter

San Antonio’s defense continued to put the pressure on McCarron. On third down, Wyatt Ray came up with another sack, and the Battlehawks had to punt yet again.

With their backs against a wall, Donnie Abraham’s defensive unit stepped up. Dravon Askew-Henry made a tremendous open field tackle on third down, allowing their offense another crack at it.

Unfortunately for St. Louis, they wouldn’t be able to capitalize. After getting deep into San Antonio territory, another sack from Prince Emili made them attempt a 50 yard field goal. Szmyt just missed wide right, and the Brahmas took over.

For the Brahmas, they were able to take some time off the clock, and score. Santoso – who had been so shaky coming into today, hit a field goal to make it 25-15 with two minutes left.

The St. Louis Battlehawks would ultimately just run out of time. McCarron got them into the red zone, but with only several seconds left, it wasn’t enough to make something happen. The San Antonio Brahmas would hang on to win 25-15 on the road, advancing to the UFL Championship.

Standout Playmakers

QB Chase Garbers: After missing half the season with an injury, Garbers showed up when his team needed him most. He was an efficient 15/21 with 179 yards and two touchdowns after his first interception. He looked poised out there today, and was the beneficiary of his RB’s.

RB’s Anthony McFarland & John Lovett: The best one-two punch in the UFL put on a show today. McFarland set the tone early, and his 69 yard touchdown run was crucial in the win. Anthony posted 115 rushing yards today. Lovett had a big day of his own, with 83 yards. This Brahmas’ offense is unstoppable with these two healthy.

WR Justin Smith: Smith had himself a night, with four catches for 76 yards and a touchdown. The speedster put it all on display for his breakaway score early in the first quarter.

DT Prince Emili: Prince had his “coming out” party tonight, after what has been a quiet but solid season. He totaled five tackles, two sacks, and two TFL’s – and was constantly getting after A.J. throughout the game.

DB Teez Tabor: Tabor lived up to the trash talk this week, with an effective six tackles and a PBU. What the stats won’t tell you: the energy he brought all night. He was flying around consistently, making McCarron uneasy in the pocket. His presence was much needed defensively.

St. Louis Battlehawks

RB Jacob Saylors: Saylors wraps up his UFL season with another solid performance, carrying the ball 14 times for 79 yards, averaging 5.6 YPC. He was a necessary spark in the second half, but it simply wasn’t enough with the Battlehawks’ offense so stagnant outside of Saylors.

LB Elijah Lee: Lee was thrown into the game after being signed this very week, and ended up leading the Battlehawks with 12 tackles, a sack, and a TFL tonight. Impressive stuff from someone who was with the team for just a few days before this playoff game.

Post-Game Comments

Brahmas’ HC Wade Phillips spoke on the win tonight, and what went into building this team for success:

“Marc Lillibridge, our GM, helped put together these players, and it’s the players that win. Coaching is a big part of it, but it was the players who came through. One thing, with Marc, I told him I wanted high character players. That’s the kind of people I want, and that’s what we have, and I think it’s shown throughout the year…they [St. Louis] didn’t have a great game last week, I thought we played great defense. Our defense led the league in every single category but one. Our guys worked hard this last week, to clean up the mistakes we made before. I think our offense had 400 yards, we held them to just 239, and sacked the QB four times…we’re gonna celebrate this win.”

Battlehawks’ HC Anthony Becht commended San Antonio on their victory:

“First and foremost I want to give credit to San Antonio, Coach Phillips, his staff, and his players. They came out and played a great game today. There was a lot of talk the last couple of weeks, and it’s a good inner conference rivalry that we have. We got ’em twice, but came up a little short today. I think for us, big picture, I want to thank our players, our coaching staff, and the fans. I think the fans here were incredible the entire season. I’m sick that we couldn’t get this for our players, coaches, and fans.”

Final Thoughts

The San Antonio Brahmas have done it. Against all odds – after coming into the UFL as the team with the “least chance”, per Betting Odds, to make it to the Championship – they’ve done it. There is still work to be done, but San Antonio should be extremely proud of their accomplishments tonight.

Defensive Coordinator Will Reed deserves a ton of credit. His defense has been the top unit in the UFL for most of the year, and they showed up, holding St. Louis to just nine points offensively, and 2/11 on third downs. McCarron was beaten and battered all game long.

Now, it’s time to prepare for the Birmingham Stallions in the inaugural UFL Championship. Wade Phillips in his 55th year of Head Coaching will now have an opportunity to coach for another ring, going up against the spring football king in Skip Holtz.

For the St. Louis Battlehawks, this has been a disappointing ending to the season. They completely collapsed with A.J. McCarron’s injury back in week seven, and never fully recovered. Clearly, A.J. wasn’t 100%, which certainly played a role in their loss. With the Championship being held at The Dome next week, it feels like a swing and a miss for this matchup to result in a loss for St. Louis. Anthony Becht will have to back to the drawing board, again, this offseason.

What are your thoughts after this matchup between the San Antonio Brahmas and St. Louis Battlehawks? Which UFL players impressed you the most today? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!