News Release, XFL

WASHINGTON — The first XFL game of 2020 was packed with big hits, big plays, and big attitudes Saturday at Audi Field.

Playing in-front of a home crowd estimated at 17,000, the DC Defenders lived up to their name to edge the Seattle Dragons, 31-19.

Although both teams leaned heavily on their running games, with a total of 49 carries between them, the defenses made their mark for the Defenders, with 43 combined tackles, two interceptions, a sack, and a blocked punt.

With the secondary leading the way — it tallied nine pass deflections and two interceptions — DC head coachPep Hamiltonalso was pleased with his defensive line and special teams.

The all-around effort from the Defenders’ defense persuaded Hamilton to givethem a much-needed break until Monday.

“I feel great about that defense, they took the ball away three times,” he said. “That’s what you want in your defense, you want them to turn the ball over.

“The coaches (also) play a big role in the win —with their play calling — but players ultimately make the plays to win games.”

Despite a slow start for Washington that saw Seattle take an early 6-3 lead, safetyRahim Mooremade a decisive read to intercept Dragons quarterbackBrandon Silverswith 10:30 left in the second quarter.

“We had a good week of practice, great film study, our calls were on-point from the defensivecoordinator,” Moore said. “The good thing about it though was that … we were able to seewho we were going up against. Our D-line was on point tonight … Our linebackers were communicating,flying around, making tackles.

“And the secondary, we just kind of pulled it on what they did.”

Players enjoyed the ability to get advanced scouting on Seattle with last week’s exhibition in Houston.

Moore followed Hamilton with praise for defensivecoordinatorLouie Cioffiand his help with film study and calling plays.

Moore, a former player in the Alliance of American Football league, noted the difference in speed and intensity between the AAF and XFL.

“To be honest with you, this pace is way faster than the AAF,” Moore said. “The pace was like an NFLgame. It was up-tempo. And they had a great game plan, they have a great NFL coaching staff over there. They have an NFL offense, so it was good to see. With my experiences, you couldn’t even tell itwas the XFL, it looked like an NFL game.”

DC continued to live up to the team name with a blocked punt by cornerbackElijahCampbelllater in the second quarter that was scooped up for a score byJonathan Celestinto give the Defenders a 9-6 lead.

It also spurred the offense to loosen up and start moving the ball consistently.

“It feels great to get this win, it has been a long-time coming,” Celestin said. “I haven’t played a game in about a year-and-a-half, just to be able to compete and fly around again, it feels great.”

Seattle went ahead 13-9 after a 13-yard touchdown pass from Silvers to running backTrey Williamsand the subsequent 1-point conversion with 20 seconds left in the half, but the Defenders got back within a point on a 55-yard field goal fromTy Rausawith five seconds left in the half to make it 13-12.

DC quarterbackCardale Joneshelped the Defenders keep pace with the up-tempo Dragons with two third-quarter touchdown passes to carve out a 25-19 lead.

Seattle wasdriving early in the fourth quarter, but former Alabama cornerbackBrandon Sylvestepped in front of a Silvers pass intended forAustin Proehland returned it for a 69-yard touchdown to give the Defenders some breathing room.

“You practice how you play,” he said. “It was the same exact play as in practice, so the moment I saw the quarterback’s shoulders turn my way, I’m like, ‘Man, this all she wrote right here.’ It’s nothing but a dog work man.

“I knew the ball was coming out high. They thought I was in ‘Cover 2’ but I disguised it; I was in man. When I saw him about to let loose, I broke on the ball.”

DC clamped down on the Dragons’ last two offensive drives for the victory.

The Defenders welcome the New York Guardians to Audi Field next Saturday, Feb. 15, with kickoff scheduled for 2 p.m. ET on ABC.

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...