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Defensive Mistakes Plague St. Louis Battlehawks in Conference Championship Loss

Life comes at you fast in football. The St. Louis Battlehawks learned that lesson Sunday night.


A season with months invested into it can boil down to a few seconds where Marquez Stevenson is suddenly wide-open over the middle of the field. Or Jontre Kirklin racing to the endzone with nothing but turf in front of him. Or running back Anthony McFarland breaking free over the middle of the field for a 69-yard touchdown.


All of a sudden, the Battlehawks were trailing the San Antonio Brahmas 19-3 in the third quarter of the XFL Conference Championship. Linebacker Pita Taumoepenu's fumble recovery, which turned into a touchdown, inspired a comeback effort that ultimately fell short. The Battlehawks' season ended with a disappointing 25-15 loss.


“I love my players, they fought hard,” coach Anthony Becht said in his post-game press conference. “At the end of the day, we had a chance to win this game in the second half and I love their fight. I love their toughness, we just didn’t play four quarters.”


The Battlehawks' performance this season followed a bell curve: low at the start, peak in the middle, and fall at the end. In weeks 3-6 of the season, the Battlehawks went on a four-game winning streak, outscoring opponents 130-to-61. In week 7 against the Stallions, however, the Battlehawks fell to the USFL Conference Champions. St. Louis suffered a bigger loss than the one on the record sheet, though, with quarterback A.J. McCarron suffering an ankle injury in the final quarter.


McCarron missed the next two weeks of the season, with backup Manny Wilkins going 1-1. McCarron returned for the season's final week to clinch home-field advantage for the playoffs, but the ankle was still bothering and affecting him. He threw for a meager 179 yards and one touchdown Sunday.


“He’s sacrificed a lot to play and come back and fighting through injury and treatments and he doesn’t make excuses,” Becht said of McCarron. 


The St. Louis defense also became more inconsistent near the end of the season and broke down when it mattered most Sunday. The three big plays mainly resulted from players tripping on ill-advised tackling attempts or holes in coverage. 


This is a bitter end for St. Louis, which has the opportunity to bring a championship home in front of a home crowd next week. In spring leagues, no continuity is guaranteed. Many players will sign with NFL teams, some with other UFL or CFL teams, and others will give up on the dream of playing football professionally. 


“I’m sick,” Becht said, “that we couldn’t get this for my players, my coaches and our fans. I think simply for us when I look at the game, I just feel like it was a little lack of focus to start the game and that lies on me at the end of the day.”


The Battlehawks will now rent out their home stadium to San Antonio for next week’s UFL Championship game. They will face off against Birmingham at 4 p.m. central. 


Life comes at you fast in football. The St. Louis Battlehawks learned that lesson Sunday night.


A season with months invested into it can boil down to a few seconds where Marquez Stevenson is suddenly wide-open over the middle of the field. Or Jontre Kirklin racing to the endzone with nothing but turf in front of him. Or running back Anthony McFarland breaking free over the middle of the field for a 69-yard touchdown.


All of a sudden, the Battlehawks were trailing the San Antonio Brahmas 19-3 in the third quarter of the XFL Conference Championship. Linebacker Pita Taumoepenu's fumble recovery, which turned into a touchdown, inspired a comeback effort that ultimately fell short. The Battlehawks' season ended with a disappointing 25-15 loss.


“I love my players, they fought hard,” coach Anthony Becht said in his post-game press conference. “At the end of the day, we had a chance to win this game in the second half and I love their fight. I love their toughness, we just didn’t play four quarters.”


The Battlehawks' performance this season followed a bell curve: low at the start, peak in the middle, and fall at the end. In weeks 3-6 of the season, the Battlehawks went on a four-game winning streak, outscoring opponents 130-to-61. In week 7 against the Stallions, however, the Battlehawks fell to the USFL Conference Champions. St. Louis suffered a bigger loss than the one on the record sheet, though, with quarterback A.J. McCarron suffering an ankle injury in the final quarter.


McCarron missed the next two weeks of the season, with backup Manny Wilkins going 1-1. McCarron returned for the season's final week to clinch home-field advantage for the playoffs, but the ankle was still bothering and affecting him. He threw for a meager 179 yards and one touchdown Sunday.


“He’s sacrificed a lot to play and come back and fighting through injury and treatments and he doesn’t make excuses,” Becht said of McCarron. 


The St. Louis defense also became more inconsistent near the end of the season and broke down when it mattered most Sunday. The three big plays were mainly the result of players tripping on ill-advised tackling attempts or holes in coverage. 


This is a bitter end for St. Louis, which has the opportunity to bring a championship home in front of a home crowd next week. In spring leagues, no continuity is guaranteed. Many players will sign with NFL teams, some with other UFL or CFL teams, and others will give up on the dream of playing football professionally. 


“I’m sick,” Becht said, “that we couldn’t get this for my players, my coaches and our fans. I think simply for us when I look at the game, I just feel like it was a little lack of focus to start the game and that lies on me at the end of the day.”


The Battlehawks will now rent out their home stadium to San Antonio for next week’s UFL Championship game. They will face off against Birmingham at 4 p.m. central. 


Life comes at you fast in football. The St. Louis Battlehawks learned that lesson Sunday night.


A season with months invested into it can boil down to a few seconds where Marquez Stevenson is suddenly wide-open over the middle of the field. Or Jontre Kirklin racing to the endzone with nothing but turf in front of him. Or running back Anthony McFarland breaking free over the middle of the field for a 69-yard touchdown.


All of a sudden, the Battlehawks were trailing the San Antonio Brahmas 19-3 in the third quarter of the XFL Conference Championship. Linebacker Pita Taumoepenu's fumble recovery, which turned into a touchdown, inspired a comeback effort that ultimately fell short. The Battlehawks' season ended with a disappointing 25-15 loss.


“I love my players, they fought hard,” coach Anthony Becht said in his post-game press conference. “At the end of the day, we had a chance to win this game in the second half and I love their fight. I love their toughness; we just didn’t play four quarters.”


The Battlehawks' performance this season followed a bell curve: low at the start, peak in the middle, and fall at the end. In weeks 3-6 of the season, the Battlehawks went on a four-game winning streak, outscoring opponents 130-to-61. In week 7 against the Stallions, however, the Battlehawks fell to the USFL Conference Champions. St. Louis suffered a bigger loss than the one on the record sheet, though, with quarterback A.J. McCarron suffering an ankle injury in the final quarter.


McCarron missed the next two weeks of the season, with backup Manny Wilkins going 1-1. McCarron returned for the season's final week to clinch home-field advantage for the playoffs, but the ankle was still bothering and affecting him. He threw for a meager 179 yards and one touchdown Sunday.


“He’s sacrificed a lot to play and come back and fighting through injury and treatments and he doesn’t make excuses,” Becht said of McCarron. 


The St. Louis defense also became more inconsistent near the end of the season and broke down when it mattered most Sunday. The three big plays were mainly the result of players tripping on ill-advised tackling attempts or holes in coverage. 


This is a bitter end for St. Louis, which had the opportunity to bring a championship home in front of a home crowd next week. In spring leagues, no continuity is guaranteed. Many players will sign with NFL teams, some with other UFL or CFL teams, and others will give up on the dream of playing football professionally. 


“I’m sick,” Becht said, “that we couldn’t get this for my players, my coaches and our fans. I think simply for us when I look at the game, I just feel like it was a little lack of focus to start the game and that lies on me at the end of the day.”


The Battlehawks will now rent out their home stadium to San Antonio for next week’s UFL Championship game. They will face off against Birmingham at 4 p.m. central. 


Cover Image Via: Rick Ulreich/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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