Battlehawks defense dominant in home opener against New York


A view from the 20-yard line as play goes on in the background during the St. Louis Battlehawks home opener against the New York Guardians on Sunday.
Photo provided by Karl Lund.

Dominic Hoscher, Sports Editor

For the first professional football game in St. Louis since Dec. 17, 2015, the Battlehawks came away with a dominant 29-9 victory over the New York Guardians.

St. Louis got the ball first, as running back Matt Jones opened up the game with back-to-back carries for 11 yards, before breaking one on his third for 49 yards. Subbing in on the fourth play of the drive was Christine Michael, who ran right up the middle for a 14 yard touchdown score. The Battlehawks’ two-point conversion was denied, keeping the score at 6-0.

The visiting Guardians got into Battlehawk territory on the next drive, but St. Louis defensive lineman Casey Sayles stormed through the New York line to sack quarterback Matt McGloin for an 11 yard loss, forcing the game’s first punt. The Battlehawks had to punt as well on their next drive, but got the ball back right after a running into the kicker call went against New York. 

Marquette King had to come on once more for St. Louis despite the extra opportunity, leading to a New York drive that got across midfield right as the first 15 minutes expired. At the end of the first quarter, the score remained 6-0 St. Louis. 

New York’s drive stalled at the Battlehawks 35-yard line, leading to Guardians kicker Matthew McGrane drilling a 53 yard field goal to make it 6-3 with 12:24 left to go in the second quarter. 

On the following kickoff, the Battlehawks pulled out a staggering trick play on the return, as Keith Mumphery ran over to the left side tossing the ball to Joe Powell who ran the distance on the opposite side of the field to put St. Louis up 12-3. The Battlehawks took it to the opposing 21-yard line on their next possession, settling for a 39 yard field goal that was hit by kicker Taylor Russolino to extend the lead.

Special teams again came up huge for the Battlehawks, blocking New York’s next punt which was recovered by Shaq Jones. This gave the hosts the ball at the 17-yard line right before the two minute warning. St. Louis turned the excellent field position into six points as Jones ran across the goal line to make it 21-3. 

On the two-point conversion, the Battlehawks pulled out a double-pass as De’Mornay Pierson-El found a wide-open Alonzo Russell in the back of the endzone to give St. Louis a 20 point lead. New York tried to respond before the end of the quarter, but McGloin was picked off by safety Kenny Robinson in St. Louis’ own territory to close out the first half.

St. Louis led 23-3 heading into halftime after a nearly flawless start in all facets of the game. Jones and Michael combined for 16 carries and 113 yards on the ground, while also scoring a total of two touchdowns. Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu went 6/9 for 46 scoreless yards through the air. 

After forcing a New York punt, the Battlehawks took their first possession of the second half to the Guardians’ 40-yard line, where Russolino came on and hit a 58-yard field goal to make it 26-3. New York took it inside the Battlehawks’ 20-yard line, but were stuffed on a 4th down run up the middle to give the ball back to the home side. 

Running back Tim Cook finally got the New York offense going with less than two minutes left in the third quarter after a 33-yard run to the Battlehawks’ 16-yard line. Cook ran for another first down before the end of the quarter, with St. Louis still up by 23. 

Touchdowns continued to be hard to come by for the Guardians, as they failed to score on four tries from inside the five yard line. This would remain the case until New York shifted to their third quarterback of the day, Luis Perez, who led the Guardians’ first touchdown drive of the game to make it 26-9 with 6:13 left to go in the fourth. They failed to convert on their three-point try.

Tussolino added a late field goal to make it 29-9, which proved to be the final score as the Battlehawks earned the victory in their home opener. St. Louis had a total of 156 yards on the ground, with Jones leading the way with 95 on 15 carries and one score. Ta’amu finished with 119 yards passing on the day.

St. Louis is now 2-1 through their opening three games, and will be back home again next Saturday to take on the Seattle Dragons at 4 p.m.

Editor’s note:  This article was produced in collaboration with the campus radio station, KCLC.