Highlights: Stallions beat Breakers in USFL semifinals

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The third time wasn’t the charm for the New Orleans Breakers.

Earlier Saturday, Philadelphia upset New Jersey 19-14 to advance to the USFL championship game. The loss ended a nine-game win streak for the Generals, who had beaten the Stars in a pair of regular season games.

New Orleans were hoping for the same result against Birmingham, a team they lost to twice in the regular season.

When you turn the ball over and cannot cover kicks, you are not going to win. New Orleans did not Saturday night. The Stallions downed New Orleans 31-17 in the USFL semifinals at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.

Birmingham picked off Kyle Sloter twice and returned a kickoff for a touchdown as the Stallions beat New Orleans for the third time.

Birmingham got a big kickoff return from Victor Bolden Jr. to the new Orleans 45-yard line but Brandon Aubrey missed a 52-yard field goal wide left.

New Orleans got the ball at its on its own 42-yard line and promptly drove the length of the field to take the early lead.

Jordan Ellis, the USFL’s leading rusher, finished off an eight play, 58 yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run to give New Orleans a 7-0 lead with 7:25 to play in the opening quarter.

Tight end Sal Cannella had a pair of receptions on the drive. The big play of the drive was a 31-yard completion from Kyle Sloter to Taywan Taylor. Sloter was 4 for 4 on the drive.

Birmingham answered with a 13 play, 72-yard drive and J’Mar Smith caught New Orleans in a blitz and Smith hit Osirus Mitchell wide open for a 23-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7-7 with 14:50 to play in the first half.

Sloter then did what he has done too much all season long and committed the big mistake.

Holding the ball too long, he was hit as he threw and the ball went into the arms of DeMarquis Gates, who returned it 71 yards for a touchdown to give Birmingham a 14-7 lead with 11:47 to play in the first half.

It was the 12th interception of the season suffered by Sloter and the 13th would follow.

The Breakers ted it late in the half on a 10 play, 88-yard drive with Sloter hitting Ellis in the flat. Ellis beat the initial tackle, got a block from Cannella and scored on a 35-yard touchdown catch to make it 14-14 with 1:06 to play in the half.

Victor Bolden Jr. returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown, untouched, to give Birmingham a 21-14 lead with 53 seconds left in the half.

The Breakers reached the Birmingham 33-yard line but Sloter made a poor decision and throw and Tae Jones picked it off to end the threat and the game went to halftime.

New Orleans had 232 total yards to just 136 for Birmingham in the first half.

The Breakers took the second half kickoff and drove 75 yards in 17 plays, taking 10:25 off the clock and after a couple of near missed for touchdown passes, Taylor Bertolet settled for a 23-yard field goal and the lead was cut to 21-17 with 4:35 to play in the third quarter.

Birmingham answered on the next possession with Aubrey kicking a 38-yard field goal to increase the lead to 24-17 with 12:04 to play in the game.

New Orleans would not threaten again and Birmingham took the ball and ran the clock out in the last several minutes as the Breaker defense could not get off the field as Smith put the icing on the cake with a two-yard touchdown pass with 45 seconds remaining, capping a 15 play, 88-yard drive, taking 7:45 off the clock.

Sloter finished 22 of 40 for 327 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions. Sloter was inspiring, playing with multiple injuries to give his team a chance as the team’s best option.

Cannella, the best NFL prospect on the team, caught 12 passes for 154 yards.

Smith finished 17 of 27 for 190 yards and two touchdowns.

South Division champion Birmingham (10-1), led by former Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz, advances to next weekend’s USFL title game to face the Philadalphia Stars.

It was a nice first season for New Orleans in the second iteration of the league, finishing 6-5 and making the playoffs. The Breakers just weren’t good enough to beat Birmingham.

Now, we wait to see what year two holds for the Breakers.

Will they play in New Orleans, as is the intention?

If so, where will they play?

The questions should get answers in the very near future.

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Ken Trahan


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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…

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