Undefeated Stallions top BattleHawks in highly anticipated matchup

Published 9:06 am Monday, May 13, 2024

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This weekend, the Birmingham Stallions (7-0) kept their unbeaten record while knocking off the St. Louis BattleHawks (5-2) in one of the most highly anticipated UFL matchups of the season.

In front of a crowd of more than 14,000 at Protective Stadium in Birmingham, the game matched the USFL Conference’s No. 1-ranked team against the XFL Conference’s No. 1-ranked team. Both teams also came into the contest ranked first or second in virtually every statistical category in the league. It was also former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron’s return to playing in his home state.

Birmingham looked to make McCarron’s homecoming a frustrating one as Stallion defensive back AJ Thomas intercepted McCarron in the first quarter. The Stallions then drew first blood on the scoreboard when CJ Marable cashed in a 1-yard touchdown run with 6:32 left in the opening period to give Birmingham a 6-0 lead.

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St. Louis and Birmingham then traded field goals with the Stallions lead extended to 9-3 with just 5:11 left in the first half. The BattleHawks found the end-zone on a 1-yard run by Jacob Saylors with 2:06 remaining in the half. The two-point try was good to give St. Louis its first lead of the game, 11-9.

Birmingham answered right back, however, with one of its patent two-minute drives. Adrian Martinez capped off the 9-play scoring drive with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Deon Cain. Mobile native Marlon Williams then converted the two-point try to give the Stallions a 17-11 lead with 16 seconds left.

McCarron maneuvered St. Louis into position for a long field goal as time ticked down in the half and BattleHawk kicker Andre Szmyt drilled a 61-yard field goal as time expired to cut the Stallion lead to 17-14 at halftime.

McCarron threw his first touchdown of the game to Saylors with 6:17 left in the third quarter to retake the lead for St. Louis 20-17. As the fourth quarter began, Birmingham answered right back with a 15-play scoring drive that Martinez finished off with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Williams to retake the lead 23-20 with 12:20 remaining.

The back-and-forth slugfest continued as Saylors scored on a 7-yard run to give St. Louis a 26-23 lead with 7:34 left. Birmingham then responded when Martinez threw a strike to Kevin Austin Jr., who broke a tackle and raced 40 yards for a touchdown. Martinez then delivered a two-point conversion to Jace Sternberger to extend Birmingham’s lead to 30-26 with 5:23 left.

After forcing a three-and-out from St. Louis, the Stallions began to eat up clock as they made their way up near midfield. The St. Louis defense did manage to force a punt with under two minutes remaining and the BattleHawks blocked it setting McCarron up in Birmingham territory.

After a couple of short gains, the BattleHawks were forced to spike the ball with 16 seconds left at the Birmingham 39-yard line. McCarron’s fourth down pass was knocked down by Birmingham linebacker Kyahva Tezino to seal the Stallion victory.

Birmingham put up 349 yards of offense compared to St. Louis’ 214 yards. The Stallions also rushed for 144 yards. The Stallions defense also earned six tackles-for-loss, two sacks and one turnover.

Martinez had another big day for the Stallions, completing 21-of-33 passes for 230 yards and three touchdowns along with 60 yards on seven carries on the ground. Williams caught four passes for 41 yards and a score, while Austin caught three passes for 59 yards and a touchdown. Ricky Person Jr. rushed for 42 yards on 10 carries. Tezino led the Stallion defense with seven tackles and one pass breakup.

For St. Louis, McCarron completed 19-of-32 passes for 161 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Birmingham is back at home on Saturday, May 18, against the Houston Roughnecks at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.