Birmingham Stallions' USFL Championship Earns Special Place In Canton Football History
By Dan Marrazza and Daniel May
Pro Football Hall of Fame
When the Birmingham Stallions defeated the Philadelphia Stars on Sunday night, it was a historic moment in pro football history.
Not only did the Stallions’ 33-30 win clinch the very first championship in the history of the USFL; it was also the first time that ANY pro football league championship was decided on Canton soil.
“That’s a big deal,” Stallions cornerback Tae Hayes said. “You grow up, you hear about the Hall of Fame, about people who’ve been inducted into the Hall of Fame. For us to be part of that…that’s a big thing, it’s beautiful for real.”
Canton, of course, has a football history steeped in tradition. Besides being the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame since 1963 and the city where the NFL was founded in 1920, the Canton Bulldogs won NFL Championships in 1922 and 1923. However, when the Bulldogs were the NFL’s top team, the league didn’t hold a championship game, instead crowning its winner based on best record in the regular season.
Similarly, there was another Canton Bulldogs team in the United Football League that won a championship in 1964; however, the deciding game was held in Indianapolis.
There was also a Canton vs. Massillon World Championship Game played in Canton in 1906, but that was not part of determining the outcome of a larger league’s season.
So, for all of Canton’s football history, Sunday was the first time a pro football league decided its champion in Canton.
The game was filled with drama, too.
The Stallions appeared to have the game well under control with a 20-9 lead at half time. However, the Stars rallied for touchdowns in both the third and fourth quarters to take a 23-20 lead, which they maintained until only 3:16 remained in the fourth quarter.
That was when Birmingham’s Victor Bolden Jr. caught an eight-yard pass from Alex McGough – who was playing in favor of an injured J’Mar Smith – that finished off an eight-play, 64-yard drive that put the Stallions back ahead for good.
Sixteen seconds later, the Stallions put the game away. This was when former University of Arizona fan-favorite linebacker Scooby Wright increased his team’s lead with a Pick Six that increased Birmingham’s advantage to 33-30. This lead held up despite a late surge from the Stars, who scored one final touchdown with 1:10 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The final score was 33-30 in favor of the Stallions.
After the game, besides the usual pomp and circumstance that goes with a team winning a championship, included members of the Stallions placing the USFL Championship Trophy in a new USFL exhibit that debuted at the Pro Football Hall of Fame last week.
An exhibit dedicated to the @USFL debuted in the Hall of Fame this week.— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) July 4, 2022
Just now, it got the one thing it was missing: the league’s first championship trophy, courtesy of @USFLStallions. pic.twitter.com/i7ajPXTk8L
“That shows you what football’s all about,” Hayes said.
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