The Arlington Renegades, despite having lost to Houston twice this season, dominated the Roughnecks as they advanced to the XFL Championship game by winning 26-11 Saturday night at TDECU Stadium.

“Not the outcome we wanted. As I told the players all week, it is hard to beat a team three times in one season. Congratulations to Bob Stoups and his team. They really played well.,” Houston head coach Wade Phillips said.

The Renegades acquired quarterback Luis Perez on March 28 in a trade with the Las Vegas Vipers and the Texas A&M-Commerce alum was the difference in the game as he threw for three touchdowns. Perez passed to JaVonta Payton for two touchdowns in the first half, one for 14 yards and the second for 59 yards.

“Last week, we noticed a lot of man-to-man coverage, and speed is one thing that I am good at. We just used that to our advantage. I was able to get a lot of mismatches on the guys that were covering me,” Payton said.

Roughneck Jeremy Cox scored on a 1-yard run with 7:01 to go in the half to make the score 14-8 but Houston never threatened after that. Perez found Brandon Aronado for a 14-yard touchdown pass to end the half with a 23-8 lead.

“Getting behind in the first half was really the key. They played really well in the first half, and we didn’t. I thought we fought back hard in the second half, but we were too far behind from the first half. At halftime, we could have just fallen apart, but the guys didn’t panic, and they didn’t get frustrated. They just kept doing their jobs. I was really proud of that,” Phillips said.

Arlington will now play in the XFL Championship on May 13 in San Antonio.

“My congrats to Coach Phillips and his staff. They really played well all year. I really admired how they played. We caught lightning in a bottle here today. Maybe the third time is a charm as they say. The bottom line is that we played really well today,” Stoups said.

For the Roughnecks, Cole McDonald completed 9 of 25 passes for 82 yards, and Deontay Burnett caught four passes for 57 yards.

For Arlington, Perez completed 19 of 27 passes for 289 yards and three touchdowns. De’Veon Smith rushed 24 times for 94 yards, and Payton caught five passes for 121 yards.

The Roughnecks ended their season with a 7-4 record.

“The loss is a disappointment, but I am proud of our team. We had a good football team that really played hard. We have a lot of close relationships that will last for a long time. These guys are special guys, they worked tremendously hard, and they gave all they had. Life is about people. The players have a long life left and I want them to enjoy their life and enjoy the relationships they made on this team. They will talk about this team for the next 40 years. I am 75 years old, but I don’t feel it. I may feel it tomorrow, but if the XFL wants me back next year, sure,” Phillips said.

Scoring plays:

Q1: 9:05 ARL Luis Perez pass to JaVonta Payton for 14 yards for touchdown. 2-point conversion failed.

ARL 6, HOU 0

Q2: 13:41 ARL Perez pass to Payton for 59 yards for a touchdown. Payton 2-point conversion rush attempt is good.

ARL 14, HOU 0

7:01 HOU Jeremy Cox 1-yard run for touchdown. 2-point conversion: Cole McDonald pass to Deontay Burnett is good.

ARL 14, HOU 8

4:58 ARL Perez pass to Brandon Aronado for 14 yards for touchdown. 2-point conversion failed.

ARL 20, HOU 8

0:05 ARL Taylor Russolino 31-yard field goal.

ARL 23, HOU 8

Q3: 5:42 HOU Austin Jones 32-yard field goal.

ARL 23, HOU 11

Q4: 1:04 ARL Russolino 18-yard field goal.

ARL 26, HOU 11

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