XFL Semifinals – Highlights, Game Recaps, Top Players

ESPN staff9 minutes of reading

Ethan Wolfe makes a grab for a 26-yard touchdown reception

Ethan Wolfe makes a grab for a 26-yard touchdown reception

The first edition of the new XFL playoffs featured two semifinal games as the league wrapped up its inaugural season.

In one corner we had the Wade Phillips-led Houston Roughnecks, who finished first in the South Division, against the Bob Stoops-coached Arlington Renegades. Before the teams meet in the Southern Division Championship Game on Saturday, the coaching duo was recently honored by the state of Texas for success on the gridiron and helping the XFL gain a foothold in the state. The Renegades, who were swept by Houston, got the last laugh on Saturday to secure an unlikely trip to the XFL Championship Game.

In the other corner, the DC Defenders continued their mastery over the Seattle Sea Dragons on Sunday, beating Seattle for the third time this season. Unlike the two regular-season games — both of which went down to the final minute — the defense went on a rampage in the North Division championship, scoring three unanswered touchdowns to break open a game that was tied at halftime. So the Beer Snake will still be in the XFL Finals.

The XFL Championship Game will be held on May 13 in San Antonio. In the meantime, here are all the highlights from this weekend’s XFL semifinals.

Go to: Summary | Best plays
Tweets| Quotes

The game on Sunday

The third time wasn’t the charm for the Sea Dragons, who failed to figure out the Defenders and fell to them for the third time this season. Mistakes were the fault of Seattle, who committed 13 penalties and lost their composure during a 21-0 run by D.C. early in the second half.

It was the defenders who started making mistakes as quarterback Jordan Taamu threw two interceptions in a first half that ended in a 9-9 tie. But Ta’amu and the Defenders found their rhythm with two touchdowns in the third quarter. The first ended with a 1-yard touchdown run to Abram Smith, the XFL’s leading rusher, while Ta’amu threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to tight end Ethan Wolfe to give DC a commanding 23-9 lead on the next possession.

DC sealed the victory with 11:53 left when Cam’Ron Harris scored the first of his two fourth-quarter touchdowns on a 1-yard run to extend the Defenders’ lead to 30-9. Ta’amu threw for 258 yards on 19-of-31 passing with two touchdown passes, a third-quarter toss to Wolf and a 44-yard score to wide receiver Lucky Jackson in the first quarter.

Quarterback Ben Dinucci, the XFL’s leading passer, was the bright spot for the Sea Dragons, throwing for 295 yards and three touchdown passes on 31-of-48 passing. Two of those touchdown passes went to receiver Juwan Green, who finished with eight receptions for 89 yards.

Game on Saturday

The Renegades took control early in the first XFL semifinal. Quarterback Luis Perez was unstoppable as he threw for three touchdowns and 194 yards in the first half. His favorite target, JaVonta Payton, caught four passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns as Arlington raced to a 23-8 halftime lead.

The second half was a defensive battle as only the Roughnecks managed to get on the board in the third quarter with a field goal. The Renegades’ offense didn’t have the same success in the second half as it did in the first, but their 15-point halftime lead was more than enough to advance to the XFL Championship on May 13.

A late fourth-quarter interception by De’Vante Bausby sparked Arlington’s offense, and a one-handed catch by Lujuan Winningham sealed the victory for the 7.5-point underdogs.

Perez finished with 289 yards passing, while De’Veon Smith added 94 rushing yards in the win. Arlington moves on to face the winner of the Seattle-DC semifinal.

Best plays

That makes it three for Luis Perez in the first half.

Luis Perez finds Brandon Arconado for his 3rd TD pass of the first half

Luis Perez completes his third touchdown pass of the first half to extend the Renegades’ lead.

Venturing for an early two-score lead.

Luis Perez and JaVonta Payton connect again for a 59-yard TD

The Renegades take a 14-0 lead over the Roughnecks thanks to another connection between QB Luis Perez and WR JaVonta Payton.

Leg and arm.

Luis Perez scrambles and throws a 14-yard TD pass to JaVonta Payton

The Renegades score the first touchdown of the game on a connection between QB Luis Perez and WR JaVonta Payton.

The defenders felt a little lucky after Lucky Jackson got them off to a quick start.

Lucky Jackson goes 44 yards for a Defenders TD

Lucky Jackson puts the Defenders ahead with a 44-yard touchdown run.

Cam’Ron Harris was the closer for the Defenders as he put the Sea Dragons out of their misery late.

Cam’Ron Harris crosses the goal line for his 2nd TD as defenders advance

Cam’Ron Harris crosses the goal line for an 11-yard touchdown as the DC Defenders advance to the XFL Championship.

Even The Rock was impressed with this game.

Top Tweets

Any explanation behind Arlington’s first half?

Something about Phillips coaching in the playoffs in Houston just feels right.

The mayor of Arlington was all in and expected to win.

DC really loves its defenders.

Winning feels great.


Don’t tell them your secrets, coach.

Seattle quarterback Ben Dinucci had plenty of praise for his boys.

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