Stars Fall in Championship

The 2022 USFL championship game of the rebooted spring/ summer football league had everything: great weather, a packed house, big plays, and, most importantly, a thrilling game between the league’s top two teams. The night ended with the Birmingham Stallions (11-1), the league’s best team all season, being crowned the champion after posting a 33-30 win over the Philadelphia Stars (7-5).  Stars fall in Championship.

Bus Trip to DC PST

This was truly a game of two halves.  The Stars found themselves down 20-9 at the half.  But what has been the story of the Stars this season is that football is a game of two halves, not one.  A second-half surge helped propel the Stars into the late 23-20 lead.   A late counter-rally by the Stallions and their QB Alex McGough who was playing for Stallions starting QB J’Mar Smith who was lost due to injury put the Stallions back on top Stallions took the lead for good 26-23.  Stallions Linebacker Scooby Wright’s pick-six moments later proved to be the game’s most important play. Philadelphia, also finished the game with a backup quarterback after Case Cookus injured his leg.

To The End

The play resulted in Cookus being carted off the field with an apparent ankle injury. Stars 3rd string QB KJ Costello entered the game for Cookus.  Costello was picked off by Wright on his first pass attempt of the game.  The resulting pick-six and extra point put the Stallions up 33-23 late in the 4th Quarter. 

The Stars were not finished, however.  On their ensuing drive, Costello Rowland was found in the middle of the end zone cutting the Stallion’s lead to 33-30. The Stars elected to attempt an “onside kick” which in the USFL is a 4th and 12 play from the attempting team’s 40-yard line.  The Stars did not convert and went down to the Stallions 33-30. Stars fall in Championship.

QB injuries 

Smith left the game during the Stallions’ second possession of the second half after suffering an injury to his midsection. The Stallions’ drive ended with a missed field goal with Smith on the sideline. The Stars — who had scored first in every game this season going into the championship — took their first lead on the ensuing possession, shortly after the start of the fourth quarter.

With Smith still sidelined, backup Alex McGough committed the game’s first turnover when he fluttered a pass that was picked off by Stars linebacker Jordan Sewell. But after the Stallions’ defense minimized the damage by forcing a punt, McGough responded by throwing the go-ahead score. 

Cookus, who had directed consecutive scoring drives prior to his injury, left the game for good after taking a sack with 8:25 left. He was carted off after breaking a bone in his leg. His backup, K.J. Costello, threw the pick-six to Wright on his first attempt of the night. He rebounded with a touchdown pass to Chris Rowland with 1:47 left, but he and his teammates could not complete the comeback after his final pass was picked off by safety Christian McFarland with 28 seconds left. 

Smith finished with 131 yards and a touchdown on 10 of 18 passing. Cookus overcame a slow start to throw for 222 yards and three scores on 17 of 29 passing. 

Cherry Law Firm Website Banner

Big plays 

With the game taking place on the Fourth of July weekend, it’s fitting that there were plenty of fireworks, especially in the first half. The list of big plays on Sunday night included: 

  • Bo Scarbrough’s 36-yard TD run gave Birmingham a 10-3 lead.
  • Jordan Suell’s 25-yard TD catch on Philadelphia’s ensuing drive. 
  • Marlon Williams’ 41-yard TD catch less than a minute later gave the Stallions a 17-9 lead. 
  • Scarbrough’s 70-yard run set up Brandon Aubrey’s short FG on the final play of the first half. 
  • Dexter Williams’ 34-yard catch on a screen pass set up Suell’s second TD catch on Philly’s first drive of the second half. 
  • Wright’s 46-yard pick-six with under three minutes left. 

What now

The Stars and their fan base have nothing to be ashamed of.  With their appearance in this year’s Championship game, the Stars now have a record of 2-2 in USFL championship games.  They are the only team in USFL history to be represented in every USFL Championship ever played.

As the league enters the 2022 offseason and ponders its future a future that hopefully sees all the teams returning to their host cities, possible league expansion, and more fan attendance the future seems bright for the Stars. Until we meet again in the spring of 2023.  Stars fall in Championship.

Matt Bednarczyk
Matt Bednarczyk

Matt Bednarczyk is your host of Talking Philly Sports With Matty B. He is a proud retired US Army Sergeant First Class, he is also a combat veteran with over 80 months served in Afganistan, and Iraq . Huge Hockey Fan. Matt is a lifelong 4 for 4 Philly sports fan. Born and raised on the Mayfair and Tacony neighborhood lines of Northeast Philly. He brings over 40 years of Philadelphia Sports passion and provides a realistic look at our Major Sports Teams and the most passionate sports fans on the planet. Look for his show live on Edge of Philly Sports.