For the first time in three years, there will be playoff football in the nation’s capital. The DC Defenders have shot out to an 8-1 start and claimed home-field advantage in the 2023 North Division Championship Game.
The Defenders set themselves up as the top seed in the 2023 XFL Playoffs with a win against the Arlington Renegades on Sunday at Audi Field. DC Defenders Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu set the tone early by completing more than 60% of his passes and throwing for more than 175 yards. DC’s dynamic passing game was also supported by a running back by committee performance from the likes of Abram Smith and backup quarterback D’Eriq King. Leading by 17 points heading into the fourth quarter, the Defenders ran into quite a few issues in the final minutes of the game.
Arlington wanted to clinch a spot in the playoffs as well and the Renegades left it all out in the final minutes of this Week 9 showdown. First, Joe Powell got things going with a 90-yard interception return that was stifled by a 15-yard penalty. Still, Arlington managed to punch it into the endzone behind three consecutive rushing attempts from De’Veon Smith. Another interception from Colin Schooler with 5:22 to go in the game set Arlington up with a chance to cut the lead down to one score. Luis Perez was able to lead the Renegades into scoring position and punch it in for a touchdown and a two-point conversion. Down three points with less than 90 seconds to go, Perez went three for five to put Arlington in position to tie the game with less than ten seconds left in regulation.
In the end, DC came up big with not one or two stops, but three stops in overtime. On the second go-around, Jordan Ta’amu hit Hammond to put the Defenders up two and close out the game.
Having come through late in the fourth against the Renegades, DC will head out to San Antonio to take on the Brahmas in the regular season finale. Much like the Renegades, the Brahmas will need to win in order to earn a spot in the 2023 South Division Championship. Regardless of the outcome, the Defenders will return to Audi Field and take on either the Sea Dragons or the Battlehawks in the North Division Championship on April 30.