Stallions capture first place in South Division

Published 10:53 am Tuesday, May 30, 2023

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The defending USFL Champion Birmingham Stallions (5-2, 2-2) recaptured first place in the South Division on Saturday with a 24-20 win over the New Orleans Breakers (4-3, 2-2) at home.

The win also avenged Birmingham’s April 29 loss to the Breakers and marked the Stallion’s second straight win. New Orleans opened the game with a methodical 16-play drive that ate up more than nine minutes of game time, but were unable to breach the end-zone and had to settle for a field goal.

Still, the Stallions trailed 3-0 early only to respond with a seven-play scoring drive of their own. With 1:59 left in the first quarter, Alex McGough scrambled and scored on a 5-yard touchdown run to put Birmingham up 7-3.

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As the second quarter began, New Orleans marched into Birmingham territory only for Breaker running back Wes Hills – who rushed for more than 200 yards in the first matchup between the two teams – to fumble on the Stallion 30-yard line, which linebacker Quentin Poling recovered.

The Stallion offense went three-and-out but the Breakers fumbled the Birmingham punt and Birmingham got the ball right back. Brandon Aubrey cashed in on a 22-yard field goal with 8:01 left in the first half to extend the Stallion lead to 10-3. New Orleans responded with another field goal to cut the lead to 10-6 and then the two sides exchange punts to end the half.

Birmingham opened the second half with a 2-yard touchdown run from Ricky Person Jr. to cap off a 7-play drive and extend the Stallion lead to 17-6 with 10:36 left in the third quarter. After a New Orleans punt, Birmingham fumbled on its first play of the next drive giving the Breakers new life.

New Orleans converted yet another field goal to cut Birmingham’s lead to 17-9. The Stallions then answered right back when McGough threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to a leaping Jace Sternberger with 1:12 left in the third to put Birmingham up 24-9.

New Orleans wasn’t ready to pack it in yet, though, and McLeod Bethel-Thompson threw a 10-yard touchdown pass and converted a two-point try to cut Birmingham’s lead to 24-17 with 12:10 left in the game.

After a Birmingham three-and-out, the Breakers converted another field goal to cut the lead to 24-20 with 5:57 left. After Birmingham and New Orleans traded punts, the Stallions attempted to run the clock out with just over two minutes remaining. Birmingham picked up a pair of first downs but then bogged down and was forced to punt with just over a minute remaining.

New Orleans made things interesting as Bethel-Thompson heaved a 42-yard pass on fourth-and-long to get into Birmingham territory with three seconds left, and a chance at a last-second throw. Bethel-Thompson’s pass into the end-zone was intercepted by Birmingham’s JoJo Tillery, however, and the Stallions secured the win and took hold of first place in the division.

McGough led the Birmingham offense, completing 16-of-23 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown along with 22 yards and one touchdown on the ground. CJ Marable added 86 yards on 17 carries with six catches for 52 yards.

Poling had a career day for the Stallion defense, tallying 11 tackles, three tackles-for-loss, two sacks and a fumble recovery.

The Stallions are back at home this Saturday, June 3, for the home finale of the season against the Philadelphia Stars at 2 p.m. The game will air live on NBC and will also stream on Peacock.