The Battlehawks (5-2) return the The Dome at America’s Center on Saturday to host the Vegas Vipers (2-5) in a rematch of St. Louis’ 29-6 win on March 25.

As STL chases a spot in the XFL playoffs, Battlehawks’ kicker Donny Hageman has rounded into form, thanks in part to some unconventional treatment from head coach Anthony Becht.

Hageman bombed a 59-yard field goal before halftime last week in Houston – a kick that set the XFL distance record and proved vital to St. Louis’ 24-15 win over the Roughnecks.

“It was a critical three points that really made the difference in the game, the ebb and flows,” Becht said.

“They score on that fumble return (in the fourth quarter), if we don’t make that kick, it’s 15-14 (Houston leads) at that point. Who knows how this game turns out? When your number is called, you have to be ready.”

With one second remaining in the second quarter, A.J. McCarron found Hakeem Butler for an eight-yard gain that put St. Louis on the cusp of Hageman’s range.

While Becht pondered his options, he saw Hageman already taking the field. Their eyes met, and Hageman signaled he wanted to attempt the field goal.

“I actually didn’t hit that well to be honest, I kind of chunked it – got a lot of the ground,” Hageman said. “But luckily I still was able to get enough through it and just put it straight like I wanted to.”

The ball tumbled just above the goalposts to give St. Louis an improbable last-second score before halftime and the XFL record belonged to Hageman.

“He’s been really good the last couple weeks,” Becht said after the game.

“You make that now, I expect him to make them all – how many yards was it, actually? 59 yards, XFL record? At this point he’s got no room for error.”

FEBRUARY 23, 2023: The St, Louis Battlehawks against the Seattle Sea Dragons at Lumen Field on February 23rd, 2023 in Seattle, WA.
(© Lindsey Wasson/XFL)


The relationship between coach and kicker started in 2019 when Becht was the tight ends coach for the San Antonio Fleet, and he took it upon himself to be Hageman’s worst nightmare.

“He was always over there trying to heckle me every practice on the Fleet – you know, honestly it just makes you better as a kicker,” Hageman said.

“It’s hard to simulate any sort of pressure or nervous build-up of some sort in practice like you would in a game…it was funny because he didn’t need to do that, it wasn’t part of his job.”

“I made fun of him too, just to try to get his mentals shaken up,” Becht said.

The pair reunited with the Battlehawks, and Hageman knew what to expect.

“When I got here, he was holding up the boom box, trying to make it loud as possible and distract me,” Hageman said.

“One practice he had out three or four those pool noodles and he was flinging them around, literally standing right in front of me where I’m trying to look at the goalposts, flinging pool noodles in my face – yeah he’s always coming up with bright ideas to try to distract me out there.”

“I don’t know if it backfired a little bit because early in the season he wasn’t as accurate as maybe I wanted him to be, so I kind of stepped back a little bit,” Becht said.

Hageman missed a field goal in the season opener and then two more against Seattle in Week 2.

As McCarron marched the Battlehawks into range of a game-winning 44-yard field goal attempt on a chilly night in the Pacific Northwest, Hageman received reassurance from an old teammate.

“Tani (Tupou), one of our defensive linemen who I played with (on the Fleet) – we had another situation like that where I hit a game winner – he kind of looked over at me and was smiling, like hey we’re doing this again. I smiled back and he winked at me, and I winked back at him, and I felt like the kick was already made at that point.”

“I do trust him – I always tell my players, I trust every one of these guys to do their job. When your number is called, you got to do your job,” Becht said.