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Overtime Thrills: Pittsburgh Maulers Triumph Over Michigan Panthers, Claim First USFL Championship Game Berth

In an electrifying game that saw two overtimes, numerous lead changes, and nerve-wracking moments, the Pittsburgh Maulers secured their first-ever ticket to the USFL championship game. The Maulers triumphed over the Michigan Panthers in a tense 31-27 victory on Saturday evening at Tom Benson Memorial Stadium, marking a stunning worst-to-first turnaround.

Last season, the Maulers were languishing at the bottom, with a dismal 1-9 record. This year, they’re within reach of the title. “We’ve been through so much as a team,” remarked Maulers linebacker Kyahva Tezino. “We’re just so blessed to be in this position right now. And we definitely won’t take it for granted.”

Maulers quarterback Troy Williams was instrumental in the dramatic victory, making his presence felt in crucial moments. Williams threw a touchdown pass to Mason Stokke and ran for a 2-yard score in the overtime, reflecting his determination and skill. The Utah product finished with 23-of-40 for 203 yards and a touchdown, and 36 rushing yards.

It was a game of high stakes and high drama, with six lead changes. In the last moments of the game, the Maulers managed to pull ahead 20-17, thanks to Chris Blewitt’s 59-yard field goal, the longest in the USFL this season. However, the Panthers retook the lead momentarily when E.J. Perry connected with Trey Quinn for a 55-yard touchdown.

But Williams wasn’t done yet. The quarterback found Ishmael Hyman on a 6-yard slant route on fourth and goal, giving the Maulers a 27-24 lead with just 39 seconds left on the clock. A late field goal from the Panthers’ Cole Murphy took the game into overtime.

The USFL’s overtime format, a best-of-three shootout from the 2-yard line, allowed for more heart-stopping moments. The Maulers managed to halt the Panthers’ first two attempts, negating the need for a third inning.

Despite some early turnovers, Panthers quarterback E.J. Perry kept his team in the game, ending with 23-of-38 passing for 370 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception. However, the Maulers’ defense stepped up when it mattered most, with Olive Sagapolu batting down Perry’s final attempt.

Reflecting on their remarkable journey, Maulers head coach Ray Horton said, “We came from 1-9 and couldn’t beat anybody last year. We struggled early, but I want to thank these guys for having faith in me. We had a plan, and we implemented that plan.”

As they revel in their turnaround and anticipate the USFL championship game against the winner of the South Division Championship, the Pittsburgh Maulers demonstrate the spirit of perseverance and teamwork. This thrilling victory over the Michigan Panthers is a testament to their resilience and sets the stage for an epic championship showdown.

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Mark Perry is the founder and editor of USFL News Hub, a premier site dedicated to providing comprehensive coverage of the USFL. Since its inception in February 2022, the platform has grown exponentially under his expert leadership, carving out a unique niche in the world of football reporting. Mark has been covering football extensively since 2018, with his in-depth knowledge and insightful analysis helping to elevate USFL News Hub as a trusted source for all things related to spring football. His expertise spans various aspects of the sport, offering readers a nuanced perspective on the trends and developments in the USFL and beyond. Beyond his editorial responsibilities, Mark is known for his approachability and commitment to fostering dialogue around the sport. He is always open to inquiries and discussions about spring football. He can be contacted directly by emailing His dedication and passion for football make him a vital voice in the coverage of this thrilling sport.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Ken Granito

    June 25, 2023 at 1:26 pm

    What a game!!! First, Congrats to both teams making it to the playoffs. Though a fairly sparse crowd, there was some serious rooting going on. Those that played in the game should be proud in bringing that out in family, friends and that are respectful of what you did on the field. If they weren’t already, these people became your fans last night. I saw an interview last year with Jared Horton who in a very truthful interview mentioned about how his defense was built on pressuring the offense and the offense in the USFL wasn’t able to beat it, because these types of offenses were sophisticated enough yet to beat that defense. You faced an NFL talent arm and talent yesterday. and he exposed the gaps in your defense a few times last. He was able to do so as you can only prepare so much for an unknown such as EJ Perry. You may make some changes next year when preparing for players like this, but your team stuck to its guns. The team played so hard even though it was a different game than what they have come across in the past and stuck to their training and the heart that brought them there. This training and heart were on display throughout the game, but never more than when Olive Sagapalou who was blocked, but his instincts training and heart told him it’s time to jump and bat the ball down even though he was facing the other direction and even though the chances of him getting it were so slim. He like the rest of Maulers did it because of their heart even in a game that was played outside of their comfort zone. The Maulers defense was great this year and played REAL football. I watched Ray Horton as a kid and I have his card and it has been such a great thing to watch him coach. I don’t know much about his Xs and Os, but as far as a human being and a coach, he has it all. I would go to war for that man. A man who is logical, knowledgeable and willing to fight for his team. Sometimes you can see the frustration, but he is always a gentleman. He does his parents, the team and his son proud everytime I see him. Great job by the Maulers and Panthers. Looking forward to tonight’s game.

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