It was a fairytale ending for the Renegades, as the team from Arlington just barely snuck into the playoffs with a 4-6 record. Bob Stoops’ squad pulled off the unthinkable – stunning the D.C. Defenders and becoming the 2023 XFL Champions. Let’s dive into what happened at the 2023 XFL Championship in San Antonio.
The Arlington Renegades struck first in San Antonio, capitalizing on their opening possession. Luis Perez would connect with Sal Cannella on a touchdown strike up the middle for six, though the two-point conversion fell incomplete.
The Renegades’ defense would then hold DC to a three-and-out on the Defenders’ first offensive drive – a massive statement for the Texas team. Arlington would capitalize on the momentum by piecing together a fantastic drive punctuated by another Luis Perez strike – this time to Tyler Vaughns. The Renegades would convert the two-point try this go round giving Arlington a 14-0 lead just before the end of the first quarter.
The D.C. offense started to show signs of life in the second quarter managing to get deep into Arlington territory. However, an interception thrown by Jordan Ta’amu shattered the momentum. The Renegades capitalized quickly. However, D.C.’s defense was finally able to buckle down and hold Arlington to a field goal.
The Defenders finally found an answer in the 2nd Quarter by taking advantage of an illegal Arlington Renegades kickoff. The fantastic field position allowed D.C. to quickly make their way into Renegade territory. Abram Smith punched it in for D.C., giving the Defenders their first touchdown of the night. The two-point try would be unsuccessful but D.C. cut the deficit to 17-6 in the hunt to be crowned XFL Champions.
Unfortunately for the Defenders, the ensuing kickoff would go out of bounds – returning the field position favor to the Renegades. The Renegades would capitalize and kick another field goal as time expired in the first half, carrying a 20-6 lead to the locker room.
D.C. received the ball to start the second half with a chance to close the gap further. They managed to do just that with a long Abram Smith rushing touchdown on their first drive of the half. The two-point try failed but with the touchdown, we had a one-score game in the Alamodome.
Arlington responded in kind, using their first possession of the second half to quickly find their way into the D.C. half of the field. Leddie Brown punched it in for the Renegades making it a two-score game once more. Arlington would secure a three-and-out on the next D.C. possession as well, giving them a real chance to extend their lead further.
However, the Defenders’ defense would buckle down in a big way. An Arlington Renegades three-and-out would give the ball right back to D.C. A long ball from Jordan Ta’amu to Josh Hammond would see D.C. narrow the gap once more. A successful two-point conversion narrowed the gap to 26-20.
Penalties would immediately come back to bite D.C. on the following Renegades possession. An unsportsmanlike conduct flag and an illegal kick would give Arlington the ball on the D.C. 30-yard line. Luis Perez would immediately find Leddie Brown for a touchdown giving the Renegades a 32-20 lead headed into the fourth quarter.
Disaster struck early in the 4th Quarter for D.C. as Brandon Rusnak jumped a route and picked off Jordan Ta’amu. The Renegades would have fantastic field position once more. The Renegades would fail to take full advantage but came away with a field goal and a 35-20 lead.
A quick three-and-out by D.C. on the ensuing Defenders’ possession gave the Renegades a real chance to cement their XFL Champions bid. With the Renegades running down the clock and time quickly ticking away for the Defenders, they would secure a fumble on a bad snap giving them a last gasp of hope. Ta’amu and Hammond would hook up for a touchdown once more with just over a minute remaining. A failed two-point conversion would see D.C. trailing by nine points.
The XFL rule differences came into play as D.C. elected to use the 4th-and-15 rule to try and regain possession. However, another interception by the Renegades defense would see Arlington secure the title.
From 4-6 to the championship game in the Alamodome, Arlington pulled off one heck of a Cinderella Story. With their 35-26 victory over the D.C. Defenders, the Renegades became the 2023 XFL Champions. It was an incredible season and we here at Apollo can’t wait for the 2024 season.
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