The Arlington Renegades are the XFL’s first league champions since 2001.
After sneaking into the playoffs with a 4-6 record, Arlington upset two of the league’s best teams from the regular season, including a 35-26 victory over the D.C. Defenders in Saturday’s championship game at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
“We played a heck of a game,” Arlington Head Coach Bob Stoops told the media during a press conference after the win. “I’m just really proud of our team — coaching, assistant coaches, the players, training staff, the managers — everyone has a hand in it.”
“We really got a fun group of people all working together, and we hit our stride here in the back half of really the last few games to have a chance to be the champions.”
Arlington started quickly, possessing the ball for over 13 minutes in the first quarter and scoring on its first two drives as quarterback Luis Perez found tight end Sal Cannella and wide receiver Tyler Vaughns for touchdowns, and the Arlington defense held D.C.’s offense to just three plays.
The Renegades added to the lead with a field goal off an interception, and D.C. got on the board with a touchdown run from former Baylor running back Abram Smith.
Leading 20-6 at the half, Arlington allowed D.C. to get back in the game as the Defenders found the end zone twice in the third quarter to cut the deficit to six. However, Perez found running back Leddie Brown for a 30-yard touchdown as the quarter expired to give Arlington a 12-point lead entering the final frame.
Jordan Ta’amu’s second interception of the day led to another field goal from Taylor Russolino to put the Renegades up 15, yet D.C. would not go away. The Defenders recovered a fumble with 2:02 remaining, and Ta’amu found Josh Hammond for his second touchdown of the game.
While Arlington stopped the two-point conversion attempt, certain XFL rules meant D.C. still had a chance. First, the Defenders needed to convert a fourth-and-15 and then score a touchdown with a three-point conversion from the 10-yard line.
D.C. attempted the fourth-and-15 play, resulting in Ta’amu’s third interception of the night and sealing the victory for Arlington.
Perez finished with 288 yards and three touchdown passes and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
“You don’t do it for that, but it’s a good honor to have,” he told the media after the game. “At the end of the day, all I wanted was to be an XFL champ.”
Arlington becomes the first XFL champion since the Los Angeles Extreme defeated the San Francisco Demons 38-6 in the “Million Dollar Game” during the inaugural season of the league’s first edition in 2001. The 2020 version of the league shut down before it reached the postseason.
“It feels great,” Stoops said after the win. “That’s what you want. If you’re going to do something, you want to win, and you want to be the champion at it, and, fortunately, we did what we needed to do here in the last few weeks to get that done.”