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The United States Football League’s first championship is officially set.
The Philadelphia Stars will play the Birmingham Stallions for the title next weekend.
Philadelphia got past the North Division champion New Jersey Generals, and the Stallions beat the New Orleans Breakers in their respective playoff games.
The Stars’ special teams came through in the clutch with about two minutes to go while they were a point down in the fourth quarter.
The Generals punted the ball away, and it was fielded by Maurice Alexander, who ran 88 yards for a touchdown that proved to be the difference in the game.
Stars cornerback Amani Dennis then picked off New Jersey quarterback Luis Perez on the Generals’ final drive to seal the win and a spot in the championship.
“You go into these games anticipating they’re gonna play a little different than they have all year because it’s a playoff game and there’s a lot of ‘or else’ factored into that game,” Stars coach Bart Andrus said Sunday on “Fox & Friends Weekend” when asked about being down in the fourth quarter.
“We went in saying something might happen, and the thing you want to do is respond when it happens. Don’t react to it. Respond. And they did.”
It was a bit of a different game between the Stallions and the Breakers.
Although All-USFL quarterback Kyle Sloter managed to throw for 327 yards for New Orleans, the Breakers’ defense couldn’t contain the Birmingham offense. And Stallions linebacker DeMarquis Gates intercepted a Sloter pass and returned it for a touchdown.
In the second quarter, Stallions wide receiver Victor Bolden Jr. returned a kick for a touchdown to give Birmingham the lead. It was the first kick return touchdown of the season.
Stallions quarterback J’Mar Smith was 17-for-27 with 190 passing yards and had a passing and a rushing touchdown in the win. Osirus Mitchell had the touchdown catch from Smith.
Birmingham now moves one win from a title after finishing the regular season 9-1.
“I just stand on the sideline and watch. I got players out there making great plays, competing their tails off. They love the game,” Stallions coach Skip Holtz said Sunday on “Fox & Friends Weekend.”
The Stallions and Stars meet July 3 at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio. The game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. ET.