Stallions capture Regular Season South Division Crown

Published 10:37 am Monday, June 19, 2023

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The Birmingham Stallions (8-2, 4-2) wrapped up the 2023 regular season with a 27-20 win over the Memphis Showboats (5-5, 2-4) on the road on June 17 to secure their second straight regular season South Division Championship.

The win not only gave Birmingham the regular season division title but it also eliminated the Showboats from playoff contention. With Birmingham already clinching a playoff spot – and home field advantage – it was the Showboats that came into the game with everything to play for and Memphis started the game off playing like that.

Memphis kick returner Derrick Dillon returned the opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown to put the Showboats up 7-0 just seconds into the game. While Birmingham managed to cut the lead to 7-3 on a Brandon Aubrey 25-yard field goal on the ensuing drive, the Showboats answered right back and extended their lead 14-3 on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Cole Kelly to Vinny Papale with 5:57 left in the opening quarter.

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The Stallions responded when MVP frontrunner Alex McGough capped off an eight-play drive with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Deon Cain as the second quarter began to cut Memphis’ lead to 14-10.

After the Birmingham defense forced a three-and-out, Aubrey cut the Showboat lead to 14-13 on a 46-yard field goal but Memphis answered right back with a field goal of its own to stretch the lead back out to 17-13 with 1:16 left in the half. Birmingham drove into Memphis territory with just seconds remaining, but McGough was intercepted at the Memphis 15-yard line allowing the Showboats to take the 17-13 lead into halftime.

Memphis’ momentum continued early in the third quarter as Birmingham running back CJ Marable fumbled on the third play of the of second half. The Showboats then drove inside the Birmingham 15-yard line before the Stallion defense once again came through. Kelley’s pass first down pass was intercepted by Nate Brooks in the end-zone to snuff out that scoring opportunity.

After the two sides exchanged punts, Birmingham took its first lead of the game on an 18-yard touchdown run from Marable with 39 seconds left in the third quarter to give the Stallions a 20-17 advantage.

Memphis opened the fourth quarter with a 45-yard field goal to tie the score 20-20 and then Birmingham coughed up the ball with another fumble, this time from tight end Jace Sternberger. Memphis attempted to retake the lead with 7:20 left but a 40-yard field goal was no good.

With 4:57 remaining, Sternberger made up for his fumble when he caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from McGough to give the Stallions a 27-20 lead with 4:49 remaining. The Showboats drove near midfield with under two minutes remaining but a fourth down attempt was no good, allowing the Stallions to run out the clock and secure the win.

While Birmingham totaled 404 yards of offense, compared to Memphis’ 248 yards, the Stallions turned the ball over an uncharacteristic three times, allowing the Showboats to remain in the game.

McGough finished the game completing 22-of-33 passes for 282 yards and two touchdowns, while Marable rushed for 56 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Davion Davis caught a career-high nine passes for 114 yards, while Sternberger caught four passes for 84 yards and a score. Cain also caught five passes for 42 yards and one touchdown.

Brody Buck led the Stallion defense with nine tackles, while Rashad Smith added eight tackles.

The playoffs get started this weekend as the Stallions host the New Orleans Breakers in the USFL Semifinals at 6 p.m. on June 25 in a game that will air on FOX. The Stallions and Breakers split their two regular season games with the Breakers defeating the Stallions 45-31 on April 29 and the Stallions winning 24-20 on May 27.

Both teams come into the playoffs on winning streaks. The Breakers have won three straight, since the May 27 loss to Birmingham, while the Stallions have won five straight games. The other playoff matchup will see the Michigan Panthers face the Pittsburgh Maulers at 7 p.m. on June 24 in a game that will air on NBC.