Official Press Release
The Arlington Renegades scored on six of their first seven possessions and held on for a 35-26 victory over the DC Defenders to win the 2023 XFL Championship Saturday night at the Alamodome.
It was the highest-scoring game of the season for Arlington, led by quarterback Luis Perez who passed for 288 yards and three touchdowns, completing 26 of his 36 pass attempts. Perez was named the 2023 XFL Championship Most Valuable Player following the game. Arlington raced out to a 17-0 edge and led 20-6 at halftime, but D.C., coming in with an XFL-best 10-1 record, wouldn’t go down without a fight.
The Defenders pulled within one score three times in the second half, but could get no closer. Arlington led 26-12 late in the third quarter, but Defenders quarterback Jordan Ta’amu hit wide receiver Josh Hammond with a 72-yard scoring strike. A two-point conversion run by Abram Smith made it 26-20 with 9 seconds remaining in the third.
But a D.C. unsportsmanlike penalty on the conversion led to an illegal kick penalty on the ensuing kickoff, giving Arlington possession at the Defenders 30-yard line. One play later, Perez hit running back Leddie Brown with a 30-yard touchdown pass to put the Renegades on top 35-20. Taylor Russolino added a 33-yard field goal with 10 minutes remaining to extend Arlington’s lead to 35-20.
D.C. took advantage of a turnover with just over two minutes remaining and got another Ta’amu to Hammond touchdown pass to pull within 9 points, 35-26. But the Defenders’ 4th-and-15 attempt to retain possession ended in an interception by the Renegades’ Cre’Von LeBlanc, icing the championship victory for Arlington.
Perez hooked up with tight end Sal Cannella for a 41-yard touchdown pass to cap off a seven-play, 76-yard drive on the first possession of the game. Following a D.C. punt, Arlington strung together a 16-play, 88-yard scoring drive that took 8:45 off the clock. Perez completed a 9-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Vaughns, followed by a 2-point conversion pass from Perez to De’Veon Smith to make it 14-0 after one quarter of play.
Arlington added a 29-yard Russolino field goal to make it 17-0 early in the second quarter. D.C. finally got on the board on the next possession with a 2-yard Smith scoring run to make it 17-6. Russolino added a 51-yard field goal just before halftime to put the Renegades on top 20-6 at halftime the intermission.
D.C. pulled back within one score on the opening possession of the second half, as Smith raced 52 yards for a touchdown to make it 20-12. But Arlington answered with another long scoring drive. Leddie Brown scored from 7 yards out to cap a 12-play drive that covered 71 yards and took 6:49 off the clock, putting the Renegades on top 26-12.
Arlington racked up 396 yards of total offense, including 285 yards through the air and 111 on the ground. Four different ball-carriers combined for the 111 rushing yards for the Renegades, led by Smith’s 54 yards on 15 carries. Vaugns finished with 83 yards receiving on eight receptions with one touchdown, while Cannella recorded 71 yards on four catches and a touchdown.
D.C. totaled 356 yards, with 241 yards passing and 115 rushing. Ta’amu finished 16-of-30 for 245 yards passing with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Abram Smith rushed for a game-high 90 yards rushing, including two scores. Hammond tallied a game-best 127 yards receiving and two touchdowns for D.C.
All photos by Keith Higgs1