What a day for pro sports in St. Louis

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What a great, memorable sports day it was in St. Louis as the XFL’s BattleHawks played their first home game and drilled the New York guardians, 29-9.  The day was amazing on many fronts.  Here are a few…

In a collegiate atmosphere, the BattleHawks left their bus in the morning and made the walk through their fans into the Dome three hours before kickoff.  Coaches and players loved it, and the early crowd to greet them was huge.

The fans were there to tailgate and celebrate.  The 101 ESPN pregame party at Baer Park was well attended.  Laclede’s Landing, the MAC Parking lots and the lot north of The Dome were all jammed as BBQ smoke wafted into the air in the hours leading up to kickoff.

The sellout crowd of 29,554 was the largest so far in the reincarnation of the XFL.  St. Louis again showed it’s a rabid football town.  Average ticket prices on the secondary market were well over $100, and they sold.  After the 28,000 seats were purchased, fans bought suites to the game and added 1,500 to the attendance.  It’s not the capacity of 66,000 that the Rams enjoyed here, but there wasn’t a single available ticket that went unsold.  The game presentation was outstanding, with in game player interviews by Michelle Smallmon, Patrico was a great game D.J., Megan O was superb with her fan interaction, and Mizzou P.A. man Randy Moehlman brough tons of energy.

The big crowd itself was amazing.  To a man, players raved about the energy in the building and how loud they were.  From a pregame “Kroenke Sucks” chant until the end of the game, fans were engaged, loud and fun.  Coach Jonathan Hayes said “it was a great crowd.  It was awesome today.  That really ignited our players and got us excited.  It was just unbelievable.”  Their passion was palpable.  As quarterback Jordan Tu’amu said, the fans “met my expectations from the jump.  When we were pulling up in the buses, I felt the energy already.  The flames, and the crowd going nuts.  It was amazing getting off that bus, and especially in the Dome.”

Dick Vermeil always used to say about the Rams that “we’ve got to give them a reason to cheer.”  The BattleHawks were able to accomplish that.  The offense, defense and special teams all had big moments.  Taking the opening kickoff, the offense moved 72 yards in four running plays, including a 47-yard scamper by Matt Jones and a fourteen-yard touchdown run by Christine Michael that put the BattleHawks ahead for good.  After a Guardians field goal in the second quarter, Joe Powell took a reverse pitch 84 yards for a score to make it 12-3.  The special teams also blocked a punt to set up a touchdown.  The defense snuffed out a Guardians drive with an interception late in the first half.  In the third quarter, the BattleHawks made two fourth down stops in the red zone to keep New York off the board.  Kicker Taylor Russolino hit field goals of 39, 58 and 36 yards.  As coach Hayes said, it was a total team victory.

The cool thing is that the BattleHawks can play better.  Tu’amu played well (12-18, 119 yards, no TD’s or interceptions), but didn’t have to carry the team.  New York outgained St. Louis 307-273.  Even though the BattleHawks had that great drive on the ground early, they only ran for 84 yards in the last three and a half quarters.  But in those things coaches look at, STL was 7-14 in 3rd down efficiency while New York was 2-10…the BattleHawks had the only takeaway of the game, that interception at the end of the first half…STL was 2-3 in the red zone while NY was 1-3…and the Guardians committed twelve penalties for 86 yards while St. Louis had just six penalties for twenty yards.

All in all, it was a great day and a great way for St. Louis to welcome pro football back to St. Louis.  There are still tickets left for next week’s game against Seattle, and if that game is close to a sellout, there’s a chance more seats could be opened up for the next home game after that vs. L.A.  Congratulations, St. Louis.  You showed the nation again why you’re one of the best sports towns in America.