Heading into this affair, both teams had played opposite seasons. DC absolutely dominated the XFL, finishing with a league-best 9-1 record. They took down the Seattle Sea Dragons in the North Division Championship, 37-21.
On the other hand, the Arlington Renegades didn’t even boast a .500 regular season record, at 4-6. However, they’ve seen improvements since QB Luis Perez joined the team – and shocked everyone by taking down the Houston Roughnecks in the South Division Finals.
When these two teams played in the season, DC won an overtime thriller 28-26. Let’s take a look at what happened today, as it went down to the wire as expected.
The Arlington Renegades got the football first, and were off to an excellent start. Luis Perez worked his magic early, no surprise. De’Veon Smith also made a quick impact, breaking off some chunk yardage on his first carries.
On a long 3rd and 13, Perez made something out of nothing. He found Sal Cannella (one of Arlington’s top targets in 2023, who took it all the way to the house. Just like that, the Renegades led 6-0.
THE FIRST @XFL2023 CHAMPIONSHIP TOUCHDOWN IN 22 YEARS.
Kelly Bryant came into the game, as he occasionally does. He runs an RPO system, and will scramble often. Bryant ended up scoring – but it was called back due to holding. It wouldn’t matter, though, because Luis Perez did what he does best – throw touchdowns.
LUIS PEREZ. This man cannot be stopped. This is the fourth time he's playing DC's defense in 2023 – and absolutely has their number tonight.
Perez scrambled in the pocket just long enough to see Tyler Vaughns streaking in the back of the end zone. The precision on this pass was simply ridiculous. With one quarter in the books, Arlington led 14-0.
The DC Defenders finally figured things out on their next drive. Jordan Ta’amu made timely throws, and also used his legs to keep the drive alive. However, things would come to an unfortunate close in the red zone. Ta’amu threw a pass which was tipped, and Joe Powell picked it off.
Arlington would swiftly march down the field, to no one’s surprise. Perez was on point, and Smith continued to chip away at DC’s defense. They settled for a short field goal, and Taylor Russolino put the Renegades in front 17-0.
DC marched down the field with ease, which was much needed as only a couple minutes remained before the half. However, we had to take an elongated break, due to a photographer getting injured on the sidelines.
As someone who is a sideline photographer, I feel absolutely terrible for whoever just got slammed on the sidelines in the #XFLChampionship. My gosh. I hope he's okay. That was a nasty hit…
After the break, DC maintained their composure. Abram Smith ran it in from a few yards out, and DC made it 17-6.
🚨 Touchdown Defenders !!!
D.C arrive enfin à débloquer la situation en attaque avec un drive bien contrôlé, Abram Smith, le meilleur RB de la #XFL trouve une brèche dans la défense pour inscrire le premier touchdown de D.C #XFLChampionshippic.twitter.com/u1Hl5EZEUT
Heading into halftime, the Arlington Renegades held a 20-6 lead, dominating the first two quarters of XFL Championship action.
DC got off to an excellent start in the third. On 4th and 1 from mid-field, Reggie Barlow made a bold move by going for it – and it paid off in dividends. Abram Smith broke through a hole and took off to the house for a 52 yard score, and it was a 20-12 ball game.
WE HAVE A BALL GAME. On 4th down, Reggie Barlow rolls the dice, and Abram Smith takes full advantage – bursting 52 yards to the house.
Arlington would respond efficiently. Perez never broke stride, pushing the ball down the field with ease. The efficiency with which he was throwing tonight was remarkable. After getting into the red zone, Leddie Brown finished off the drive, powering his way past the goal stripe for the score. With several minutes left in the quarter, the Renegades led 26-12.
This time around, the Defenders were unable to find their rhythm. After making their way to mid-field, Arlington’s defense stood strong, forcing a punt. For the first time tonight, though, Arlington would have to send it right back, with a three and out on their end.
Jordan Ta’amu would strike quickly. He tossed a perfect pass to Josh Hammond, who took it all the way, for a 72 yard touchdown.
WOW. 72 YARDS. Jordan Ta'amu threads the needle to Josh Hammond, who takes it the distance.
You’d think the third quarter was done by now. It wasn’t. A terrible kickoff, plus a penalty, gave Arlington the football at DC’s 30 yard line, which is wild. On the very next play, Perez threw a shallow crosser to Leddie Brown, who dove into the end zone.
WHAT IS HAPPENING. One play after the DC bomb, Luis Perez finds Leddie Brown who takes it 30 yards for the touchdown.
After getting deep into Defender territory, Arlington settled for a field goal. Russolino knocked through a 33 yard attempt, and they took a 35-20 lead.
Speaking of woes…it didn’t get much better for the Defenders. Ta’amu dropped a dime deep to Chris Blair, who let it slip right through his hands on what would’ve been a surefire touchdown. DC had to punt, as time continued to trickle down.
Arlington would efficiently work the clock, slowly but surely marching down the field. It was a slow death for DC, as they pushed their way into the red zone. However, a fumble ended the drive – as Reggie Northrup gave the Defenders a bit of life with two minutes left.
Turnover sur le snap. Luis Perez dit à l'équipe de se dépêcher car l'horloge tourne et sur le snap le ballon est mal transmis, fumble recover par D.C qui va pouvoir tout tenter dans les dernières minutes du match #XFLChampionshippic.twitter.com/nIiCSjVbZ3
DC capitalized quickly. Ta’amu pushed the ball down the field quickly, finding Josh Hammond for a quick strike to make it 35-26. The two point conversion was no good, so they resorted to the 4th and 15 attempt.
It was unsuccessful, as Cre’von LeBlanc picked it off. That would seal the deal, as the Arlington Renegades took down the DC Defenders in thrilling fashion, 35-26 to win the XFL Championship.
QBLuis Perez: Obviously, the XFL Championship MVP is the first on this list. He was spectacular, playing at his best when the lights were at their brightest. Perez finished the game with 288 passing yards, 3 TD’s, and no interceptions. He was spot on for the entire night. The spring football legend just solidified himself as an all-time QB in the XFL with this performance.
WRTyler Vaughns: It was an outstanding night for Tyler, who put on a show when his team needed it. Vaughns racked up 83 yards and a TD on just eight catches. He was a solid target all year long, and proved his value to the team in the biggest game of the year.
TESal Cannella: The trusted tight end made his mark tonight, with 71 yards and the opening score. His resurgence with Luis Perez at QB was a much needed boost to Arlington’s offense, and he made several big-time plays tonight.
RBLeddie Brown: How about Leddie stepping up out of nowhere? After going under the radar throughout the entire XFL season, Brown posted two touchdowns tonight – including one that put this game practically out of reach.
LBDonald Payne: What a story it was for Payne, who was able to play in the postseason after thinking his XFL tenure was over. He led the team in tackles with seven, and led his unit the entire night. One of the greatest spring ball linebackers to ever play the game.
RBAbram Smith: Despite the loss, Abram Smith played his heart out for DC. He finished the night with 90 yards and a TD, averaging almost 7 YPC. The league’s best RB was on fire, but the team ultimately ran out of gas down the stretch.
What a game. It’s hard to put it all into words, to be honest. We’ve been waiting for this moment for so long. 22 years in the making.
After all this time, it was Bob Stoops and the Arlington Renegades who came away with the XFL Championship win. Despite facing so much adversity this season, they found a way. The league of opportunity…this is what it’s all about.
Luis Perez absolutely changed this team around, taking them from dead and out to XFL Champions. His leadership is an underrated part of his game – as his passion rallied the team to this unbelievable upset.
“Let’s finish the damn game and we’re world champs!”
As for the DC Defenders, it’s a tough ending to such a special season. The team should go out with their heads high, however, as they put on a show for the nation for twelve straight weeks. Hats off to Reggie Barlow for the job he did in DC.
Just like that, the XFL season is officially over. What a year that went by too fast for those who watched. Here’s to next season!
What are your thoughts on this XFL Championship between the DC Defenders and Arlington Renegades? Which XFL players impressed the most? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!