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Thrilling, One-Point Win Secures Home Field Advantage for the St. Louis Battlehawks

The St. Louis Battlehawks have brought winning football back to the city that has been deprived of it for decades.

One of the UFL’s premier teams clinched home-field advantage for next week’s XFL Conference Championship game in a 13-12 win over the San Antonio Brahmas Saturday.

34.379 fans flocked to The Dome to witness the thrilling win, which guaranteed playoff football would be played in St. Louis for the first time in 19 years.

Filled with sloppy play, St. Louis’ win was defined by just a few key throws from quarterback A.J. McCarron, two blocked field goals, and a simple one-point conversion on the game's first score.

In his return after missing the past two games with an ankle injury, McCarron looked rather rusty, starting the game 1-for-7 for -1 yards and an interception. 

The worst part of the horrendous stat line is that the interception came within 10 yards of the endzone, with the ball floating into the hands of defensive back Teez Tabor after running back Jacob Saylors was pushed to the ground while running an angle route.

However, the St. Louis defense quickly forced a four-and-out, providing the Battlehawks offense with great field position. McCarron then came to life. He danced through the pocket on the drive's second play to deliver a 20-yard dart to a wide-open Jahcour Pearson. The next play, he stepped through and lasered a pass to Steven Mitchell for a 22-yard touchdown. 

Coach Anthony Becht opted for a one-point conversion, a decision that would prove to be even wiser in hindsight. McCarron quickly found tight end Jake Sutherland on a play-action boot. Although a defender read Sutherland’s movements all the way toward the goal line, the 6-foot-4, 247-pound tight end dived over the yellow jersey and extended his arm past the goalline. 

Had Sutherland not put it all on the line for what could’ve ended up being a meaningless conversion, St. Louis might’ve had to travel to San Antonio next week.

Another St. Louis tight end made a different crucial play for the Battlehawks in the quarter's final seconds, this time on special teams.

After San Antonio had driven down to the St. Louis 41-yard line in the final minute of the first half, Kemari Averett swatted down the Brahmas’ field goal attempt to keep a 10-0 St. Louis lead heading into the second half.

San Antonio came out fiery for the second half, taking just eight plays to travel 75 yards, ending with Morgan Ellison rushing in six yards for a touchdown. 

Both offenses exchanged unimpressive drives for most of the second half, including two three-and-outs for St. Louis. McCarron had a clear shot to secure the win for the Battlehawks after the St. Louis defense forced a three-play, zero-yard drive for San Antonio with six minutes remaining. After two shots to the endzone that nearly ended in an interception, the Battlhawks had to settle for a field goal. 

San Antonio received the ball with just over three minutes left, trailing only seven points. It only took three plays for the Brahmas to travel 51 yards and for quarterback Quentin Dormady to deliver a clutch 37-yard touchdown to Jontre Kirklin. 

On the two-point conversion attempt that followed, Kirklin made the catch just past the goal line. Still, St. Louis successfully challenged for an ineligible man downfield, forcing San Antonio to repeat the potentially lead-changing conversion. On the second attempt, linebacker Willie Harvey knocked Justin Smith in midair as the receiver tried to make the catch, forcing an incompletion and keeping the St. Louis lead at one.

After a three-play drive for St. Louis that ended with McCarron being sacked, the Brahmas had 50 seconds to drive down and win the game with just a field goal. Dormady made two quick completions of 14 and 17 yards, setting up Ryan Santoso for a 51-yard game-winning field goal. 

But Santoso’s kick met the hands of 6-foot-5 receiver Hakeem Butler, causing the ball to drift to the left of the goalposts like a deflating balloon through the air, causing an eruption in The Dome.

McCarron was able to take the final kneel down and finally breathe a sigh of relief. 

The Battlehawks will have a rematch next week with the Brahmas in the same place, Sunday at 7 p.m., with a trip to the UFL Championship on the line.

Cover Image via: Dilip Vishwanat/UFL/Getty Images

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