By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer
Despite taking the field with heavy hearts, the DC Defenders found their will and imposed it on the New York Guardians to become the first 2-0 in the XFL with a 27-0 win at Audi Field.
The Defenders started the game with heavy hearts after the passing of receiver Eli Rogers’ mother, which resonated throughout the team. While the organization didn’t put any pressure on the former Louisville wide receiver to remain with the team, he chose to make the sacrifice and miss her funeral. It was a commitment that was not lost inside their locker room.
The DC Defenders beat the New York Guardians 27-0 at Audi Field on Feb. 15. (Courtesy Photo)
“It was a tough week for all of us in that locker room,” said Head Coach Pep Hamilton in his post game press conference. “Making the ultimate sacrifice and missing out on his mother’s funeral then seeing him celebrate the win with his teammates just warms me up.”
Those who were thought to be the experts of a league who hadn’t played a single down in the XFL’s first season believed the New York Guardians were the favorites to win the new league’s first championship. However, after two weeks, there’s a lot more work to do in the Big Apple than there is in the DMV.
The DC Defenders were at home over the first two weeks, after beating the Guardians 27-0, before an announced crowd of over 15 thousand people on a bone-chilling afternoon at Audi Field. Pep Hamiliton’s team physically beat down defensively on a New York team that was broken midway through the fourth quarter when they lifted starting quarterback Matt McGloin for Marquis Williams.
Through the XFL’s first two weeks, DC’s defense is ahead of the curve while the offense is taking baby steps. They reduced the number of missed tackles from week one and Linebacker Jameer Thurmund returned another interception 46-yards for a touchdown.
There were fewer blown assignments and they held the Guardians to only two first downs before halftime. For the second consecutive week they scored a defensive touchdown on New York’s first offensive possession of the second half.
However, the offense remains a work in progress as quarterback Cardele Jones still looks for consistency with his receivers. There were still several scoring chances that were missed, which were open for potential scores.
Rogers made his presence felt on the game’s opening drive with a big catch to help set up their first field goal. Jones later connected on a touchdown pass to D’Andre Thompkins, who wasn’t able to play in the team’s first game because of injury. He also found former Bowie State tight end Khari Lee with a touchdown catch that was called back after an offensive pass call. However, Hamilton’s punishing ground game began to assert itself in the third quarter, which broke the will of the Guardians.
“We’re making progress, but I won’t let myself feel comfortable until its the end of the season and we’ve won a championship,” Jones said.
The Defenders make the first road trip of the season to Los Angeles to meet the Wildcats on Feb. 23.