Battlehawks’ head coach Anthony Becht spoke to the media in training camp and mused about the mood in The Lou if his team entered the Dome in Week 4 with an unbeaten record.
Two wins by the Kaw-diac ‘Hawks and the vision has taken shape.
“If we’re 3-0 going into that place, I feel bad for whoever has to come in and play us,” Becht said before St. Louis stormed back to beat Seattle last Thursday.
“It’s going to be loud; it’s going to be rocking…I can’t wait for it.”
Now a friendly face is all that stands between St. Louis and a 3-0 start. On Sunday at noon, the original Battlehawk hopes to clip the wings off his former team.
D.C. Defenders’ quarterback Jordan Ta’amu was the first player on St. Louis’ roster when XFL version 2.0 launched in 2020, and the Ole Miss standout led the Battlehawks to a 3-2 record before COVID-19 shutdown the spring season.
Ta’amu’s legs carried the Defenders past the Vegas Vipers on a wet slippery field in Sin City on Saturday night, and if the Battlehawks are to win the battle of unbeaten teams this week, Becht knows St. Louis must contain D.C.’s dual-threat field general.
“He’s got a very strong arm, excellent with his legs – presents problems for us,” Becht said. “We just to have to prepare for all those things, we have to trust what we do on defense…I think number one, it starts with tackling.”
The Defenders are last in the XFL with 183 passing yards and no touchdowns through two games, but leads the league in rushing (313 yards, 4 touchdowns).
D.C. rotates D’Eriq King with Ta’amu at quarterback – King has rushed for 46 yards and two touchdowns but has just seven yards through the air.
The Defenders’ defense enters play Sunday allowing just 12 points per game, led by former St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
“Challenges present themselves this week because of the amount of pressure packages that Coach Williams likes to bring to the table…clearly they’ve presented problems for the first two teams they played,” Becht said.
St. Louis quarterback A.J. McCarron and the Battlehawks’ offense has shined at the right time, with game-winning drives in the final minute of both come-from-behind wins.
The ‘Hawks hope the likely return of starting RB Brian Hill from a hamstring injury will boost a running game led by McCarron (5 carries, 41 yards, one TD) last week in Seattle.
Other weapons are also on the mend.
Wide receiver Hakeem Butler sparked both fourth quarter rallies with touchdowns; he’s been limited in practice this week with a sore groin. Fellow wideout Marcell Ateman missed practice on Wednesday but logged a limited session on Thursday.
“We’re going to continue doing what we’re doing. I don’t think anything changes, our plan is good, what we want to do is good – it’s just all of us coaching staff and players executing early in the game,” Becht said.
St. Louis Battlehawks (2-0) at D.C. Defenders (2-0) at Audi Field, Washington D.C. Game time is 12 p.m. on FX and ESPN+.
And by the way, the Battlehawks opened the upper bowl for ticket sales and expect 30,000 plus at the Dome next weekend.
Andy Carroll is a freelance sports writer living in the Ozarks with his wife and four great kids. He loves St. Louis, toasted ravioli and minor league baseball. You can follow him on Twitter @carroll_sgf and Instagram @andycarroll505