After a bit of a slow start, the St. Louis Battlehawks came on strong to blow past the Vegas Vipers 29-6 Saturday night in Las Vegas.
With the win, the Battlehawks up their record to 4-2 and move into a tie with Seattle Sea Dragons for second place behind undefeated D.C. Defenders in the XFL North. The loss dropped Vegas to 1-5 on the season.
The Battlehawks received strong play in all three facets of the game on Saturday. The offense, keyed by quarterback A.J. McCarron, rallied after a pair of early punts to score on four consecutive drives to take control of the ballgame.
McCarron, who completed 19 consecutive passes at one point in Saturday’s win, had 23 completions on 29 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns. His top receiver on Saturday was Darrius Shepherd, who also leads the XFL in kick returns this season; on Saturday, Shepherd caught seven passes for 79 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
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Hakeem Butler added five catches for 36 yards while running back Brian Hill caught four for 29 yards to go along with 71 rushing yards.
The St. Louis defense was led by defensive back Nate Meadors (8 tackles) and LaCale London (5 tackles, ½ sack). Carson Wells had 1 ½ sacks while Lavert Hill picked off a pair of passes for the Battlehawks.
After the teams traded punts on the game’s first four possessions, the Battlehawks put together the first scoring drive of the game. Moving 62 yards on 12 plays, the visitors took the lead on the first play of the second quarter as Gary Jennings took an end-around from left to right for 4 yards and a touchdown. On the try for two, St. Louis quarterback McCarron fired a pass to Shepherd for an 8-0 Battlehawk lead.
The drive, which featured six consecutive completions from McCarron, was highlighted by a fourth-down pass from McCarron to George Campbell that took the Battlehawks to the Vegas’ 3-yard line, a 15-yard pass from McCarron to Butler and a 16-yard scramble for a first down by McCarron.
After the St. Louis defense forced the third consecutive punt to start the game, the Battlehawks responded with another scoring drive capped by a 40-yard field goal from Donnie Hageman with 2:25 to play in the opening half.
Key plays on that drive, which pushed the lead to 11-0, were a 16-yard pass from McCarron to Hill, a 16-yard run from Kareem Walker, a 14-yard pass from McCarron to Shepherd and a 24-yard circus catch by Austin Proehl on a pass from McCarron.
After the St. Louis defense forced its fourth punt in as many first-half drives to start the game, the visitors needed just three plays to cover 57 yards in 50 seconds to take a 17-0 lead to the halftime break. With just 30 seconds to play before halftime, McCarron hooked up with Shepherd on a 30-yard touchdown pass.
McCarron, who completed his final 17 passes of the opening half, threw for 166 yards and two scores before halftime. St. Louis got four catches each from Shepherd (53 yards, TD), Hill (29 yards) and Butler (28 yards) in the opening half.
Defensively, the Battlehawks forced punts on the first four Vegas possessions, limiting the Vipers to just 67 yards and four first-half first downs. Vegas averaged just 3.2 yards per play in the opening half.
On defense, Meadors led the way with six first-half tackles. The Battlehawks’ defense got first-half tackles for loss from LaCale London, Lavert Hill, Lakiem Williams and Travis Feeney.
Vegas received the kickoff to open the second half and saw its first drive ended by an interception by St. Louis cornerback Lavert Hill.
Seven plays later, Walker scored on a 1-yard plunge to make it 17-0 with 9:31 to play in the third quarter. Key plays on the drive included a 32-yard pass from McCarron to Campbell and a 12-yard run from Hill, a Belleville West High product.
After another interception, Vegas made a switch at quarterback, bringing on former Green Bay Packer Brett Hundley. He led the home team to its lone score of the day, a 17-yard scoring pass to John Lovett with 7 minutes to play that cut the St. Louis lead to 23-6.
A misplayed kickoff gave the Battlehawks possession at the Vegas’ 45. Six plays later, the St. Louis lead went to 29-6 as McCarron scrambled to keep the play alive before firing a 6-yard strike to the back of the end zone for Shepherd, who picked up his second touchdown of the game.
Upcoming ScheduleThe Battlehawks will play their final road game of the regular season on Sunday, April 2, playing at 1 p.m. against the Houston Roughnecks at TDECU Stadium on the Houston University campus.
The Roughnecks, who are 4-1 atop the XFL South Division, are scheduled to play 6 p.m. Monday in Washington, D.C., against the XFL North Division-leading D.C. Defenders (5-0).
St. Louis will close out the regular season with three consecutive home games at The Dome at America’s Center downtown _ at noon on Saturday, April 8, against the Vegas Vipers; a 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 16, against the Seattle Sea Dragons; and 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 22, against the Orlando Guardians.
The XFL’s Division Championship games will be held Saturday, April 29, and Sunday, April 30. The XFL Championship Game is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 13, at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.