Friday, May 24, 2024

XFL Week 1: Big kicks, big hits, big success…

Last weekend saw the first matchups of the inaugural XFL reboot season. With plenty of talent and drama on display, we look back on the games and what you may have missed. 

XFL Game 1: Seattle Dragons @ DC Defenders

The very first game of the season kicked-off in Washington, as the DC Defenders hosted the Seattle Dragons at Audi Field. Considering it was only the first game of the league, nevermind the season, the attendance was already rather impressive. The 17,000 strong crowd were out for the love of football, and it showed. 

The football itself did not get off to such a blazing start. The Dragons went three-and-out on their first drive, and the Defenders response was a time-drainer but ended in nothing more than a 3-point field goal. 

But a couple of quarters in, and DC’s head coach Pep Hamilton decided to bring the heat on offence, and show the world why the XFL is worth watching.

The Defenders held the Dragons comfortably on defence, even coming away with some big plays on special teams, including a blocked punt TD. If the Dragons are to become serious contenders in the XFL, then their offence needs some work. WR Austin Proehl put in a good show, but sloppy plays led to frequent mistakes for Seattle. 

Final score: Dragons 19 – 31 Defenders

Game 2: LA Wildcats @ Houston Roughnecks

The first of two games in Texas kicked off at TDECU stadium as the Houston Roughnecks hosted the LA Wildcats in front of another 17,000 strong crowd.

Things got off to a strong start for the Roughnecks, with quarterback P.J Walker leading the offence to 6 points on the opening drive of the game. 

The Wildcats were quick to respond, putting together some solid drives in the first half. 2 TDs for LA QB Charles Kanoff gave the offence some momentum going into halftime.

Unfortunately for LA, the second half was not quite as productive on either side of the ball, with the Wildcats failing to score any points in the second half. Walker put on a fine display for Houston, finishing the game with 265 yards for 4 TDs and 1 INT. Houston running back James Butler finished the game off with his first rushing TD of the season. 

Final Score: LA Wildcats 17 – 37 Houston Roughnecks

Game 3: Tampa Bay Vipers @ New York Guardians

MetLife Stadium is best known as the home of the NFL’s Jets and Giants, but here in the XFL, it is the home of the New York Guardians.

Ex-Raiders QB Matt McGloin led the Guardians offence to their first ever score, with a QB sneak at the end of a lengthy drive. The Vipers struggled to respond, with their first drive ending in an end-zone interception courtesy of standout safety Andrew Soroh’s tip of the ball. 

Tampa Bay’s struggle on offence continued throughout the game, with some questionable play-calling. Backup QB Quentin Flowers was put in to drive the Vipers downfield, only for Aaron Murray to be put back in for third-down attempts. A move which failed every time it was attempted. Though Flowers did tend to stretch the field when used as a receiver due to his skills as a mobile QB.

The Guardians defence did not let up either, with their pass rush looking rather dangerous early in the season. Cornerback Jamar Summers iced the game late in the 4th quarter with a fumble recovery TD. 

It’s early in the season, but the New York Guardians already look like the team to beat. A well rounded offence and strong defensive play made fast work of the Tampa Bay Vipers. 

Final Score: Tampa Bay Vipers 3 – 23 New York Guardians

Game 4: St Louis Battlehawks @ Dallas Renegades

The first week of the XFL came to a close in Dallas, with opening favourites Renegades hosting the St Louis Battlehawks. Before the season started, the Renegades were favourites to win it all, but with QB Landry Jones out with a knee injury, it was up to backup, and former Instagram model, QB Philip Nelson to lead the charge. 

The first quarter came and went with no score, but Battlehawks QB Jordan Ta’amu made a promising start with some neat throws to his receivers.

Dallas opened the scoring in the second quarter with a field goal, but it was St Louis who found the endzone first, with running back Keith Ford battering through the Renegades defence for a rushing TD. 

Some of the highlights of the second half came from ex-NFL pro bowl punter Marquette King, who pinned the Renegades deep in their own half on multiple punts. One punt came to a standstill on the half-yard line, before being knocked into the endzone by a Battlehawks player for a touchback. 

Despite coming in as heavy favourites, Dallas fell far short of the target, with all points scored coming from field goals. With Jones set to return next week, it seems that the Renegades could turn things around quickly. 

It’s been a great first week for the XFL, and with ticket sales already surpassing the AAF’s entire first season, it looks like it’s here to stay. For now at least. 

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