Game Preview: St. Louis Battlehawks at Arlington Renegades, Saturday 25 May, 2024

  • St. Louis Battlehawks at Arlington Renegades
  • Saturday May 25, 2024 11:00 AM CT (12:00 PM ET)
  • Choctaw Stadium, Arlington, TX
  • Tickets: Ticketmaster and Stubhub
  • Network: ABC (Streaming)
  • Announcers: Mike Monaco (Play-by-Play), Sam Acho (Analyst), Stormy Buonantony (Sideline Reporter), Cole Cubelic (Sideline Reporter)
  • Odds: St. Louis -3, O/U 46 (DraftKings)

In this game, the Battlehawks and Renegades will play for the second time this season and fourth time overall, with the Battlehawks winning each of the first three matchups. St. Louis defeated Arlington, 27-24, in the team’s Week 2 matchup in front of a record crowd of 40,317 fans on April 6 at The Dome at America’s Center. The Battlehawks also triumphed over the Bob Stoops-led Renegades, 15-9, at Choctaw Stadium in Arlington in the first game of the 2020 XFL season. St. Louis also defeated Arlington, 24-11, in its Week 4 home opener of the 2023 season.

Arlington is out of contention for a playoff spot, but for St. Louis, this game is about playoff positioning. On Sunday, June 9, the St. Louis Battlehawks and San Antonio Brahmas will square off in the XFL Conference Championship at 6 p.m. CT, with the final two weeks of the regular season determining the game’s location. The Battlehawks can clinch a home-field advantage with a win at Arlington and a Brahmas loss in their game against Birmingham.

What do we know?

In their week 8 game, the Battlehawks downed their XFL Conference nemesis, the D.C. Defenders, 26-21, Sunday in front of 32,403 fans at The Dome at America’s Center, who were able to celebrate the team’s first playoff berth in franchise history.

St. Louis trailed by one point, 21-20, with 4 minutes, 55 seconds left in the fourth quarter when WR Darrius Shepherd returned the ensuing kickoff a game-high 32 yards to give the Battlehawks offense possession at its own 45-yard line. RB Wayne Gallman II then led the team’s game-winning drive with four rushing attempts and a 38-yard catch. His final rushing attempt was a 1-yard run that pushed St. Louis ahead by five points with 2:00 remaining in regulation. To seal the victory, the Battlehawks defense forced a turnover on downs on D.C.’s next drive.

RB Wayne Gallman II delivered a season-high two touchdowns in Week 8, including the score that proved to be the game winner. The 30-year-old Clemson product produced a season-high 73 all-purpose yards in the victory. He had nine rushing attempts for 35 yards and two touchdowns in addition to his 38-yard fourth quarter catch. Gallman is second on the team and tied for fifth in the UFL with four rushing touchdowns this season. RB Jacob Saylors, with five rushing touchdowns tied for the second most among UFL rushers, trails him by one.

WR Hakeem Butler had a team-high three catches and 39 receiving yards in Week 8 vs. the D.C. Defenders, pushing his season receiving yardage total to 606 yards, which eclipses the previous franchise single-season record of 599 receiving yards he set a year ago with St. Louis during the 2023 XFL season. Butler also leads the team with 41 receptions and five touchdown catches.

QB Manny Wilkins filled in for injured QB A.J. McCarron in Week 8 vs. the D.C. Defenders and led the Battlehawks to their sixth victory of the season by using both his arm and his legs. Wilkins went 9-for-18 with 126 passing yards and no interceptions. He also rushed 12 times for a game-high 80 yards. Wilkins may get the start in Week 9, as A.J. McCarron’s status is currently questionable.

The Battlehawks re-signed CB Mike Hampton on Monday to fill the roster spot that opened when the team placed CB Brandon Sebastian on injured reserve on May 15. Hampton was also a member of the 2023 Battlehawks. He played in nine games (seven starts) and led the team with 29 solo tackles. He finished the year with 36 total tackles.

The St. Louis offense produced 26 points for the second straight week and scored at least three touchdowns for the seventh consecutive game to maintain its status as the top-scoring offense in the XFL Conference. The Battlehawks have averaged a conference-best 28.1 points per game, behind only the Birmingham Stallions (29.5 points per game). St. Louis also leads its conference with 26 touchdowns for the season, one behind Birmingham for the most in the league. With 12 extra-point conversions each, the Battlehawks and Stallions share the lead. Both teams have converted nine 2-point tries and three 1-point attempts.

This week, the Battlehawks will bring the top-ranked pass defense in the UFL into Choctaw Stadium to face an Arlington Renegades team that has averaged an XFL Conference-high 304.9 passing yards per game. St. Louis, meanwhile, has held opponents to a league-low 153.6 passing yards per game, nearly 20 yards fewer than the San Antonio Brahmas’ second-lowest mark of 173.5 passing yards allowed per game. The Battlehawks have also held teams to 247.6 total yards per game overall, which leads the conference, trailing only the Birmingham Stalllions in the league (242.8 yards per game).

In Week 8 against the D.C. Defenders, Battlehawks defenders SS Kameron Kelly and FS Qwynnterrio Cole each recorded an interception, giving St. Louis eight picks on the season, tying Birmingham for the most in the UFL.

As for the Arlington Renegades, in a week-eight Texas Showdown matchup, they came up short versus the San Antonio Brahmas. Down 20-3 at one point, the Renegades rallied back, with QB Luis Perez throwing TDs to TE Sal Cannella and WR JaVonta Payton. An unsuccessful attempt on a 4th and 12 to keep possession of the ball (alternate kickoff) gave the Brahmas the win.

Arlington QB Luis Perez became the first UFL player to reach 1,000 pass yards this season in their Week 5 loss vs. San Antonio. Through eight games played this season, Perez has completed 67.7% of his passes for 1,835 yards (leading the UFL), 12 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions, in addition to three carries for eight yards. In the team’s week seven win against Memphis, Perez had his best performance of the season, going 27-for-32 (84%) for 296 yards and 3 touchdowns (both season highs), with no turnovers.

Arlington RB De’Veon Smith is back with the Renegades after a 2023 campaign in which he pounded in seven rushing touchdowns for the XFL champions, tied for the best in the league. Through the first eight weeks of the UFL season, Smith has amassed 317 rushing yards on 80 carries (leading the team in both) and three scores, to go along with seventeen catches for 151 receiving yards.

WR Deontay Burnett snagged his first touchdown reception of the year in Week 4 at Houston from 8 yards out during the third quarter. Through eight games played this season, Burnett has twenty-five catches for 238 yards and a score.

Picking up where he left off last season, Arlington, TE Sal Cannella has caught 41 passes (leads team, T-3rd in the UFL) for 375 yards and five touchdowns (T-1st in the UFL) through eight games played this year. His first touchdown of the season came at St. Louis in week two. In week six at Michigan, #80 caught his second touchdown of the season from 19 yards out. Cannella had a two-score game in the team’s week seven win over Memphis, along with nine catches for 72 yards. In week eight, he had another score, along with nine catches for 87 yards.

Through eight games played this season, Arlington’s offensive unit has been rolling, scoring 179 points (22.4 PPG), which ranks fourth in the league. The team ranks second in total yards (2,439) and passing yards (1,805), in addition to racking up 634 rushing yards. The Renegades have posted an impressive 50.5% conversion rate on third down attempts (48- for 95), along with having 148 first downs (both rank 2nd in the UFL).

The Arlington Renegades’ defensive unit flexed their muscles during the team’s week seven win over Memphis as they came up with a total of four takeaways (two interceptions and two forced fumbles), they rank second. They now have 12 total takeaways on the year, which ranks third in the UFL.

Ajene Harris looks to be a key defensive piece for the Renegades this year. Last season, Harris tallied 31 tackles and 5 interceptions (1st in the XFL) for the Houston Roughnecks over nine regular-season appearances. Through seven games played this season, #5 has 27 total tackles (19 solo, 8 assist), one tackle for loss, one interception, 5 pass breakups, and one fumble recovery.

The team’s seven interceptions on the season are good for third in the league, in addition to tallying 19 sacks (4th in the UFL), 32 pass breakups (T-3rd in the UFL), along with three forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries. They currently rank sixth in the league in scoring defense, allowing 24.5 PPG.

What should we expect?

While the Arlington Renegades currently sit at 1-7 overall and fourth place in the XFL Conference, that record has not quite been indicative of the team’s play this season. The statistics demonstrate a discrepancy between this squad’s on-field performance and its stats.

Despite Arlington being a team that is ripe and ready to explode with another big performance, the St. Louis Battlehawks are playing for a home field berth in the XFL Conference playoff game. They harbor a legitimate resentment towards Arlington, a team that qualified for the XFL playoffs in 2023, despite having a superior record. This season, St. Louis does not plan to make any mistakes in their run to the playoffs, and they have plenty at stake right now.

Look for the Battlehawks to take this game.

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