The USFL Championship will bring an official end to the mid-year football season and offer a nice appetizer to the impending NFL season.
The Birmingham Stallions will look to win its second consecutive title on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Maulers – who went from having the worst record during the 2022 season to North Division champions.
J’Mar Smith led the Stallions last season to a championship over the Philadelphia Stars and was set as the starting quarterback for the 2023 season until he was injured. Alex McGough, who was injured last season before Smith stepped in, led the Stallions to the best record in the South Division as well as a second consecutive South Division championship. He led the USFL in passing touchdowns with 20 and was among the tops in passing yards among quarterbacks.
The quarterback was named MVP on Friday.
“In one of the most accomplished seasons in professional spring football history where [McGough] accounted for a modern USFL record 25 touchdowns in just 10 games, we’re proud to announce that Birmingham Stallions quarterback Alex McGough is the 2023 USFL Most Valuable Player,” USFL president of football operations Daryl Johnston said.
McGough found a prime target in former NFL tight end Jace Sternberger during the year. Sternberger led the USFL in receiving touchdowns with seven. Hhe had 33 catches for 517 yards. McGough and Sternberger were both named to the All-USFL team for their efforts.
Stallions cornerback Nate Brooks led the team in tackles with 43 and had two interceptions to his credit. Brian Allen had two interceptions in the South Division title game and Scooby Wright III has been an anchor in the team’s linebacking corps to help the team where it is now. JoJo Tillery had three tackles for a loss on the season as well.
The Maulers have been the underdog story of the year.
Pittsburgh started the season with Ray Horton as its new head coach. The team had to fight tooth and nail to get to the North Division Championship and was able to clinch a playoff spot with a 4-6 record – over last year’s champion, Philadelphia.
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Troy Williams took the reins as the Maulers’ quarterback. He had 1,414 passing yards and six touchdown passes during the season. Williams also led the way on the ground with 341 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. He’s proven to be a viable double threat that the Stallions will have to watch out for.
McGough will also have to watch out for Mark Gilbert in the secondary. He led the league with four interceptions and had 32 tackles to his credit. He was an All-USFL team member for his incredible year.
Joining him on the tough defense are linebacker Kyahva Tezino and safety Arnold Tarpley.
Tarpley tied for second with three interceptions this season. He had 42 tackles on the year. Tezino had two interceptions and finished with 94 tackles on the season.
While Stallions head coach Skip Holtz was named USFL Coach of the Year, Horton’s son, Jarren, was named the league’s first-ever Assistant Coach of the Year.
“We know how valuable all members of the coaching staff are to the success of a team, so we thought it was important to add this award in 2023,” Johnston said of Horton. “We’re proud to honor Coach Jarren Horton as our first recipient of the USFL Assistant Coach of the Year. Jarren has done an outstanding job the last two seasons as the Pittsburgh Maulers Defensive Coordinator. In 2023, his defense led or was near the top in almost every statistical category. We challenge our coaches to bring out the best in their players, and Jarren accomplished that feat as three Maulers were named All-USFL Defense. We’re proud to have Jarren as part of the USFL family.”
Saturday will be the big day. The Stallions and Maulers will vie for the USFL Championship.
The game will take place in Canton, Ohio, at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. ET, and the game can be seen on NBC and Peacock.