In the most anticipated game of the XFL weekend, the DC Defenders headed out east to St. Louis for their pivotal second meeting with the Battlehawks. This game held major implications throughout the week, but picked up even more steam when the Sea Dragons shocked the Roughnecks on Thursday night, ending Houston’s undefeated streak.
One of the main storylines entering this game was how the last meeting between these two teams ended. A brawl in the final seconds of their week three showdown resulted in the suspension of multiple players, including Defenders LB Francis Bernard and Battlehawks OL Jaryd Jones-Smith who were serving the tail-end of their suspensions this week.
An almost eight minute opening drive for DC turned into zero points as they were stopped on a fourth down attempt at the STL one yard line. WR Lucky Jackson was a focal point for the DC offense on the opening drive, gathering two catches on the first two plays from scrimmage.
Safety Kentrell Brice was carted off to the locker room towards the end of the first quarter. It was announced during the game that Brice received x-rays and they came back negative.
The second quarter began with a fourth and one QB sneak conversion by Battlehawks QB AJ McCarron, which was soon followed up by an apparent touchdown that was called back due to a holding call on STL. Penalties were a common theme throughout the game for STL, who entered the game with just 13 all season. At the half, they already had 9.
With RB Ryquell Armstead out this week with a calf injury, Abram Smith was forced to handle the load for DC. The first overall pick began to take full advantage of that in the second quarter with a blazing 62 yard rushing touchdown to give DC the 8-3 lead following the 2 point conversion.
This is exactly why Abram Smith was picked #1 overall in the @XFL2023 draft. @abramsmith_28 rips off a 62 yard TD run – the longest of the #XFL season – to put DC in front 8-3. He's has been sensational this year, & adds another highlight to his reel.pic.twitter.com/MF56Bqna6N
Safety Montae Nicholson, who was active for the first time this season, played a significant amount of time with Kentrell Brice out and came up with a huge turnover for DC that led to another Abram Smith rushing touchdown. DC led 14-3 at halftime.
The second half started off with a bang as Battlehawks return man Darrius Shepherd nearly took the opening kickoff to the end zone, but was tripped up just inside the DC 20 yard line. The drive resulted in a 34 yard field goal for the Battlehawks. Shepherd continuously looked like one of the best players on the field tonight.
In case you were still wondering why Abram Smith was selected first overall in the XFL Draft, this game was a clear example as to why Coach Barlow and staff felt so comfortable drafting him. Just as STL seemed to be gaining momentum, Abram Smith showed once again why he should be considered as the best back in the league with a 70 yard scamper for six. Smith finished the game with 218 yards and 3 touchdowns. By far the most impressive game by an XFL RB this season.
After a three and out stop by STL on the ensuing drive, the momentum was certainly shifting throughout the stadium and was certainly being felt on the field.
With the momentum certainly on STL’s side entering the fourth quarter, the DC Defenders were in desperate need of a big play. Who else to provide that spark than QB D’Eriq King? The red zone wizard continued his success on the ground in that area, this time escaping the pocket and taking it in for a ten yard touchdown.
With just under five minutes remaining, the Battlehawks were able to get within one score with the help of a McCarron to Steven Mitchell Jr. 50 yard deep shot and 2 point conversion to make it 28-20. McCarron’s arm was on full display in this game.
Oh my gosh, what an absolute DIME from AJ McCarron to Steven Mitchell. This one was a beauty.
What are your thoughts on this game between the DC Defenders and St. Louis Battlehawks? Which XFL players impressed you the most? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!