The 2023 XFL season came to a close this week for the Orlando Guardians, it is an act of mercy. The Orlando Guardians have shown the ability to play with anyone throughout the second half of the season. They have also made it obvious on multiple occasions why they are 1-8. Against the St. Louis BattleHawks, what we got was more of the same. Orlando played like a team with nothing to lose in the first half, trailing by 5 at the break. In the second half, undisciplined play and a BattleHawk team on a mission resulted in a 53-28 blowout.
The final game wasn’t without some bright spots. Quinten Dormady, despite sharing time with Deondre Francois, had 188 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jordan Thomas is the player of the game for Orlando, his 4 receptions for 109 and a touchdown led all receivers. A.J. McCarron stole the show for the BattleHawks, throwing for 420 yards and 6 touchdown passes.
The scoring started on the second drive of the game. After Orlando’s defense forced a 4th and 6, St. Louis would punt. Deondre Francois would start the game for the Guardians, and a 27-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Jamiel caps a 79-yard touchdown drive. A failed conversion gives us 6-0 Orlando early in the game. A. J. McCarron would take the next possession to Orlando’s 17 before being forced to kick a field goal.
On the very next drive, Francois would throw an Interception ( Intended for Jordan Thomas, and Brandon Sebastion on the int). McCarron makes the most of the short field, and a few plays later, Kareem Walker rushes in from one yard out. This would be St. Louis First lead, 9-6.
The next drive featured some trickery. After forcing a 4th and 21, Punter Mac Brown runs his second fake of the season, an 84 touchdown pass to Jordan Thomas.
St. Louis answers on the next drive, going 70 yards and ending in a McCarron to Butler 7-yard touchdown. This would be a theme, Butler would end the game with 9 catches for 164 and 2 touchdowns. Orlando would answer back on the next possession. Deddrick Thomas takes the next kick-off to St. Louis 45.
Dormady Enters the game
At this point, Dormady sees his first action of the game and makes the most of it. On the very first play, he finds KD Cannon from 45 yards out and converts on a two-point conversion.
St. Louis wasted no time answering back on the very next drive, with Jake Southerland getting his first and only catch, a 5-yard Touchdown pass. A two-point conversion, and an Orlando missed field goal take us to the half 25-20 St. Louis
Unfortunately, this is as close as this game would ever be. After going three and out, Orlando is forced to punt. 7 plays later, McCarron throws his third touchdown pass, a 13-yarder to Steven Mitchell.
Mitchell also comes up with the 2-point conversion, giving us a 33-20 score early in the third. After forcing another Orlando punt, Hakeem Butler caught his 2nd touchdown pass, this time a 66-yarder, McCarron’s 4th.
At this point in the game, Terrell Buckley, in a baffling decision, pulls Dormady for Francois. It appears to work until Orlando got into field goal range. On 1st and 10, Francois throws his 2nd interception of the game (intended for Daniel Williams, intercepted by Lukas Denis). Starting near mid-field, McCarron ends this drive with his 5th touchdown pass, a 4-yarder to Darrius Shepherd.
On Orlando’s next possession, Dormady makes a reappearance and leads another scoring drive. This time 65 yards, ending with a 6-yard pass to Charleston Rambo. STL would get the ball back, and like they had all second half, would lead another scoring drive. McCarron completes a 22-yarder to Steven Mitchell (his second touchdown reception, McCarron’s 6th touchdown pass). Orlando’s next possession would end in hilarious fashion, with Mac Brown attempting a fake punt, to be intercepted by Brandon Sebastion (his 2nd).
Terrell Buckley on the loss
After the game, a clearly frustrated and demoralized Terrell Buckley gave his shortest post-game press conference to date and took no questions.
Orlando will have a lot of off-season questions to answer. More than likely after the disappointing season, some changes will be made to the coaching staff. The roster volatility in this level of football also means that the team could look entirely different next year from its current status. Only time will tell.