Battlehawks win XFL debut

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Jordan Ta’amu

Since the last win by the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on Dec. 17, 2015, it had been a long four-plus years of misery for local professional football fans.

They’ve been forced to watch the Los Angeles Rams enjoy success and even appear in a Super Bowl during that time, leaving St. Louisans to wonder “what if?”

That all changed Sunday, however, as the XFL’s St. Louis Battlehawks made their successful debut at Dallas in a game televised on ESPN.

“This first win was for y’all! Started off rough but just like the city of St. Louis we rally and pull through,” Battlehawks wide receiver L’Damian Washington, a former Mizzou standout, posted on Twitter.

St. Louis entered its XFL debut as 9.5-point road underdogs to the Dallas Renegades, but head coach Jonathan Hayes’ bunch was up to the challenge. The Battlehawks appeared to be the more physical team on both sides of the ball.

The game was tied 6-6 at halftime, with the Battlehawks defense holding Dallas to just two field goals and St. Louis running back Keith Ford scoring on a 16-yard run.

With St. Louis trailing 9-6 in the fourth quarter of this defensive slugfest, quarterback Jordan Ta’amu pulled off the play of the game with a 37-yard scamper on third down. That set up his nine-yard touchdown pass to Alonzo Russell to put the Battlehawks up 12-9.

Taylor Russolino added a 48-yard field goal for St. Louis, who went on to win 15-9.

Ta’amu put together an impressive XFL debut, going 20-of-27 passing for 207 yards and rushing for 82 yards.

Matt Jones ran for 85 yards on 21 carries. The Battlehawks’ offensive line guided the rushing attack to 191 yards on the day, good for tops in the league after the opening week.

The St. Louis defense was also outstanding, holding Dallas to 1-for-10 on third downs and recording four sacks on the day.

Another bright spot for the Battlehawks in week one was punter Marquette King. The former NFL punting leader kicked multiple booming punts to change field position in his team’s favor.

The Battlehawks racked up 78 penalty yards in the game, which is one area in need of improvement before the team travels to Houston next Sunday. The game starts at 5 p.m. and will air on FS1.

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