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Stallions outlast Stars to win wild USFL title game

Jul 3, 2022; Canton, OH, USA; Philadelphia Stars quarterback Case Cookus (10) looks for a receiver under pressure from Birmingham Stallions inside linebacker Scooby Wright (33) during the first quarter at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Linebacker Scooby Wright III returned an interception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to help the Birmingham Stallions seal the inaugural USFL title in a wild 33-30 win over the Philadelphia Stars in Sunday’s championship game in Canton, Ohio.

The Stars made a second-half push with two consecutive touchdown drives to move ahead 23-20, their first lead of the game. Philadelphia quarterback Case Cookus tossed three touchdown passes but suffered a broken right fibula in the fourth quarter and was carted off the field.

Birmingham was also down to its backup quarterback, Alex McGough, after J’Mar Smith exited earlier in the game with a leg injury. McGough connected with Victor Bolden Jr. for an 8-yard touchdown, but the extra point was missed, leaving the Stallions’ lead at 26-23 with 3:09 to play.

That’s when K.J. Costello, in for the injured Cookus, was picked off over the middle. Wright — a Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner in college before bouncing around the NFL, Alliance of American Football and XFL — took it 46 yards to the house.

“After playing in two failed spring leagues and getting to play one all the way through, this means a lot,” Wright said. “For real, for real. A lot of uncertainty the last couple years of football and stuff. I’m just grateful this stage was here and allowed me to play the game I love with the people I love, my teammates.”

Philadelphia tried to rally. Costello took the Stars on a five-play, 58-yard drive ending in a 12-yard touchdown pass to Chris Rowland to cut the deficit back to three.

But instead of an onside kick, the Stars opted to try a “make it/take it” fourth-and-12 attempt to retain possession, one of several rules unique to the league. Costello’s pass over the middle was broken up. They forced Birmingham to punt and got possession one more time, but Costello was intercepted again by Christian McFarland.

The Stallions led 20-9 at halftime on the back of Bo Scarbrough’s seven carries for 122 yards and a 36-yard touchdown. Scarbrough, an Alabama native who starred collegiately for the Crimson Tide, finished with 135 rushing yards. Wide receiver Marlon Williams had seven catches for 105 yards and a touchdown.

The Stallions were the league’s best team in the inaugural season of the revived USFL, going 9-1 in the regular season played entirely in Birmingham, Ala. The playoffs were held at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium adjacent to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

–Field Level Media