The Oklahoma City Elite found themselves trailing the Oklahoma Monarchs 20-13 on Saturday, with the third quarter winding down, but dug down deep and rallied back for a 27-20 win to advance to the Xtreme Football League of Oklahoma Championship Game.
Oklahoma City led 13-7 in the second quarter, but the Monarchs were able to tie it up before halftime. Then, in the third, the Elite turned the ball over and the Monarchs capitalized to pull ahead 20-13, late in the third.
“Our offense decided we were going to come back and score and we hit big on a tunnel screen,” Elite head coach Tredell Harris told Developmental Football USA. “Mackensey Brown broke open a 50-yard run on the screen, so that gave us our momentum back.”
The Elite defense then stood strong and forced the Monarchs to go three and out to get the ball back into the offense’s hands. Moments later, Garrett Casper then found Tony McDaid on a 25-yard touchdown for the final score of the game to win it and advance to the championship.
“When we first started, we had a core of guys that have now been with us for three years,” Harris said. “I told them, ‘If you all stick with us for three years, give me three seasons’ and we did that. We built around those core guys. Along the way we added some veterans that played a couple of years ago. This year we had a mix of veterans, with the talent we added last year in our young guys, this year we brought in a little more leadership with our better athletes and it gelled right away. That’s been the key this year.”
In their first season, the Elite went just 1-7, then improved to 5-5 in 2016. Now, after continuing to make major strides in Year 3, they’re sitting at 10-1 heading into next Saturday’s Championship Game.
“It is huge,” Harris said. “We talked about this from day one and we weren’t looking to merge with another team or be a lower level team for one of the higher level teams. We wanted to build this from the ground up and that’s exactly what I’ve done with the guys’ help, with the coaches’ help and that’s exactly where we want to be, in the championship game in year three. Today was a huge win for us.”
The Elite’s offensive attack starts with the play up front by their offensive line, which allows the playbook to open up as Casper has time to find open targets.
“The biggest impact player on our team this year has been the way our offensive line came together, so all of those guys, along with the maturity of our quarterback Garrett Casper and the emergence of wide receiver Jerrell Jeter.”
Defensively, the Elite is solid across the board as a tenacious line frees up the back end of Oklahoma City’s defense to make plays.
“It’s been our d-line and Brandon Emerson, our hybrid safety, and the biggest impact is one of our middle linebackers, Tyrone Jones, and our free safety Cortez Chapple,” Harris said. “Those guys have been great additions to already having a great defense, but those guys coming over to our team have been a major help for us, with their leadership and with the athletic abilities they bring. Those guys have been a major help. They fit in perfectly with the defense we already had. We already had a top notch defense but those guys made it even better.”
Now, the Elite will move on to the XFL Championship where the will face the Kansas Cougars (12-1, 9-1 in XFL), who knocked off the Oklahoma City Jaguars 18-6 on Saturday to punch their ticket to the championship game.
Earlier this year, the Elite handed the Cougars their only regular season loss, 27-20, and with championship hardware on the line, next Saturday’s match-up should be another intense, high-scoring game.
“That’s going to be a tough game,” Harris said. “All we’ve got to do is come out and stay focused. We know it’s tough up there. Our guys are hungry and we’ve kind of been a little disrespected this year, so we have a huge chip on our shoulder. Really, the only team that can beat us is us. If we come out motivated and play our game like we do, we don’t feel there’s a team that can beat us. The only team that stands in our way is us.”
The XFL regular season ended with a three-way tie, with the Cougars, the Elite and the Monarchs each having a 9-1 league record. In the regular season, the Elite beat the Cougars, the Cougars beat the Monarchs and the Monarchs beat the Elite, but based on the league tiebreaker rules, the Cougars ended up as the No. 1 seed in the playoffs and will host the championship game.
“It came down to defensive points allowed, so they edged us out by six points,” Harris said. “Our last two games were shutouts and they had shutouts also and we were six points behind them.”
Rocket Stadium in Rose Hill, Kansas, has been one of the toughest venues in the XFL for road teams to pull out a win in the Cougars’ three seasons in the league, so the Elite will need to bring everything they’ve got.
“We hope everybody enjoys us, who comes out and watches us play,” Harris said. “To everybody that helps me keep this team going, I appreciate everybody.”