The USFL traveled to Canton for the league’s playoffs as the Birmingham Stallions played the New Orleans Breakers for the first round of the playoffs. One of these teams hoped to reach the inaugural championship game.
After a 9-1 record to win the South Division in 10 regular-season games, the Stallions defeated the New Orleans Breakers 31-17 on Saturday night at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, in a USFL semifinal game. Most thought the North Division regular-season champion New Jersey Generals would win and play Birmingham but the underdog Philadelphia Stars are going to face them in the USFL title game on July 3.
Another team with a 9-1 regular-season record was the Generals. Entering the postseason on a nine-game winning streak including two wins over the Stars, 24-16 on May 1 and 26-23 last week, Philadelphia upended New Jersey 19-14. Saturday marked the first opening semifinal game in Canton for the USFL. The game between the North Division’s top two finishers turned on two punt returns in the fourth quarter.
One highlight was league MVP KaVontae Turpin returning a punt 78 yards for a touchdown as the Generals took a 14-10 lead with 10:30 left to play. The Stars got to within a point, kicking a field goal with 5:55 to go. Then, they got an 88-yard punt return for a touchdown from Maurice Alexander to go ahead 19-14 with 1:41 remaining. Cornerback Amani Dennis helped cement a playoff spot in the USFL championship game with an interception at the Stars’ 17-yard line with 30 seconds to go.
The South Division semifinal game was extremely entertaining, to say the least. After the Breakers tied the score at 14-14 with 1:06 left in the first half of the second semifinal, Victor Bolden Jr. turned in the first touchdown kickoff return in USFL history by going 90 yards as the Stallions regained a 21-14 lead with 53 seconds remaining in the first half. New Orleans took three points off the lead with a field goal to cap a 17-play drive that took the first 10:25 off the clock in the second half. Birmingham got those points back with a 14-play drive, then finished off its third victory over the Breakers this year with a 15-play, 88-yard touchdown series that reached the end zone with only 39 seconds to play.
The Birmingham Stallions will take on the Philadelphia Stars on July 3rd in Canton, Ohio for the USFL Championship game.
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