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As XFL Week 9 kicked off, so too did the USFL and the competition of spring football leagues. As the two football powers battle, so too do XFL teams for playoff positioning.
The Houston Roughnecks (6-3) defeated the Vegas Vipers (2-7) at home, 27-21.
After clinching a playoff spot representing the South Division last week, Houston managed another milestone – beating a member of the North Division. Vegas being a two-win team may put a damper on the accomplishment over and above doing it in last-minute fashion, but a win is a win.
Roughnecks’ quarterback Brandon Silvers continued to struggle in the victory, completing 16 of his 27 passes for 105 yards with two interceptions. It was the ground game that brought the most offensive production for Houston.
As a team, they turned in 132 yards on 26 carries featuring Max Borghi’s 10 carries for 74 yards and a touchdown as well as Bryce Alleyne’s 12 carries for 42 and a score. However, defensive scoring was the biggest factor.
WE DONT LOSE FAITH! WE JUST PUSH FORWARD! ROUGHNECKS W pic.twitter.com/seds5ap4Lv
— Houston Roughnecks (@XFLRoughnecks) April 15, 2023
Tavante Beckett’s 39-yard fumble recovery score caused by DeAndre John’s sack of Vegas quarterback Jalen McClendon put the first points up for Houston to make it 12-6 at the half. The next score in the contest was Ajene Harris stripping Martavius Bryant and taking it 12 yards to the house, which not only tied up the game, but canceled out Silver’s interception on the previous drive.
It’s not that Vegas was unproductive, as McClendon finished throwing 27 completions on 37 attempts for 249 yards and two touchdowns as well as five carries for 41 yards. Running back John Lovett led the team in rushing and receiving. He ran it nine times for 49 yards and a touchdown with six catches for 79 yards.
The Vipers did enough to set up a chance to win late in the red zone on the Houston 18, but as the clock hit 00:00, the final incompletion harmlessly fell to the turf.
San Antonio Brahmas defeated the Orlando Guardians (1-8) at home, 25-23.
While Orlando is eliminated from the playoffs, they had the opportunity to play spoiler in their rematch against San Antonio, who are clinging to a sliver of playoff hope. In another close heartbreak loss for the Guardians, Brahmas quarterback Jack Doan had his best passing performance on the season, connecting on 25 completions in 31 passes for 301 yards and a touchdown.
More than a third of Doan’s passing yards were caught by Nick Holley, who chalked up four receptions for 105 yards. Running back Jacques Patrick did his part carrying 20 times for 80 yards.
Put your 4s up!!!
— San Antonio Brahmas (@XFLBrahmas) April 16, 2023
Quinten Dormady wasn’t great doing the lion’s share of the Guardians’ passing, delivering nine completions on 17 attempts for 47 yards and a score with an interception. Not only did punter Mack Brown lead Orlando in passing yards on the night by converting a fake punt with a 69-yarder, but Dormandy’s interception was also the difference in the score as San Antonio’s Drew Beesley took it 26 yards to the house in the middle of the 4th quarter.
All of those factors completely overshadowed Guardians’ running back Devin Darrington’s 16 carries for 166 yards.
The DC Defenders (8-1) defeat the Arlington Renegades (4-5) at home, 28-26 OT.
This game had playoff seeding implications in both the North and the South Divisions. With DC’s victory, they have secured home field advantage throughout the playoffs while had Arlington won, they would have clinched a playoff spot.
It looked like the Defenders had secured a blowout victory as they led 26-9 heading into the 4th quarter. However, the Renegades threw down 17 unanswered points in the final 15 minutes to take it to overtime on the back of former Vegas Viper quarterback Luis Perez having his best performance this season.
— D.C. Defenders (@XFLDefenders) April 16, 2023
Perez threw the ball 41 times, connecting with receivers 31 for 335 yards and a touchdown with an interception. De’Veon Smith provided balance on the ground, carrying 12 times for 43 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Unfortunately for Arlington, Defenders’ quarterback Jordan Ta’amu found Josh Hammond on their 3rd and final overtime conversion attempt as the Renegades were unable to respond. Ta’amu threw 20 times while completing 14 of them for 188 yards, two scores, and an interception, with Hammond leading the squad in receiving with five catches for 74 yards and a touchdown.
The Seattle Sea Dragons (6-3) defeated the St. Louis Battlehawks (6-3) on the road, 27-12.
This was easily the biggest game on Week 9’s schedule. Not only was this a battle for the 2nd seed in the North Division, but it marked the return of A.J. McCarron, St. Louis’ starting quarterback. Yet, it ended up being the biggest blowout of the week.
While the Dragons and Battlehawks were locked in battle 14-9 at that half, Seattle would catch fire in the 2nd half once they realized that A.J. McCarron’s shoulder was still limiting him from throwing the ball deep. This was likely a major factor in McCarron’s two interceptions during his performance where he posted 18 completions on 32 attempts for 186 yards and a touchdown.
— Seattle Sea Dragons (@XFLSeaDragons) April 16, 2023
Meanwhile, MVP-candidate gunslinger Ben NiNucci had Seattle’s offense firing on all cylinders. He delivered 21 connections on 31 targets for 280 yards with two touchdowns and an interception as well as running in the game-clinching score.
One of DiNucci’s passes was a strike to Jacour Pearson that turned into a 68-yard scamper for six. Pearson wrapped up the day with seven catches for 115 yards.