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St. Louis Battlehawks Fall to Arlington, Still Control Playoff Destiny

St. Louis Battlehawks head coach Anthony Becht has plenty of work to do to fix some of his team's mistakes in Saturday's 36-22 loss to the Arlington Renegades. Ultimately, the game does not affect St. Louis’s ability to control its destiny for the UFL playoffs.

The Battlehawks fell to 6-3 on the season and will have to win over the San Antonio Brahmas next week to secure home-field advantage in the XFL Conference Championship game, also set against San Antonio.

In order to clinch home-field advantage this week, St. Louis needed to defeat the Renegades and have the Brahmas lose to the Birmingham Stallions. The Brahmas, however, pulled off the upset and handed the Stallions their first loss in 378 days.

Another reason the Battlehawks shouldn’t be panicking because of the late-season loss is that they were again without star quarterback A.J. McCarron. The XFL’s 2023 MVP has missed the last two weeks due to an ankle injury he suffered in Week 8 against Birmingham.

In his place has been Manny Wilkins, who previously did not start in a single game since his 2018 senior season at Arizona State. Wilkins' performance through the air was solid last week in a win against the D.C. Defenders, but his struggles were illuminated Saturday against the Renegades.

Wilkins threw three interceptions, all in the fourth quarter. St. Louis entered the fourth quarter only trailing by six points, so Wilkins' mistakes, including one pick-six, played a crucial part in the loss. 

But Wilkins was far from the only Battlehawk to make mistakes Saturday. The Battlehawks ended the day with four turnovers, even more damning considering they led to 14 points, their exact margin of defeat. 

“We looked good at times and at times we looked really bad today, and that’s on me,” Becht said. “Balls were on the ground, missing tackles — we talk about all these things, these little details that make us better.”

St. Louis recovered from early mistakes, including a fumble on 3rd-and-5 by Blake Jackson that led to a 46-yard touchdown reception by Sal Canella, by doubling up on the bookends of the first and second half. Wilkins ended the first half and began the second by rushing in for a touchdown to turn a 19-9 deficit into a 21-19 lead.

But 17 unanswered points from Arlington, caused by St. Louis’ aforementioned turnover issues and a poor performance by the Battlehawks secondary, were enough to give Arlington its second win of the season.

Had things gone differently Saturday in San Antonio, the Battlehawks would likely be reeling and recounting all of the would’ve, could’ve, and should’ve moments from their loss against the Renegades. But St. Louis dodges a missed opportunity, and now the stakes are even higher for next week against San Antonio.

Home-field advantage means more to St. Louis than any other league team with its league-record attendance numbers. The Battlehawks will likely have McCarron back for the crucial game next Saturday at 3 p.m.

Cover Image via: Richard Rodriguez/UFL/ Getty Images

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