In a closely-fought match, the Michigan Panthers edged out the St. Louis Battlehawks 18-16 on Saturday, March 30, in their United Football League opener at Ford Field. Jake Bates secured the victory for Michigan with a 64-yard field goal in the final three seconds.

Despite both teams advancing into opponent territory, neither could score in the first quarter. The Panthers’ defense, continuing their strong performance from last season, saw Breeland Speaks sacking A.J. McCarron early, and safety Kai Nacua also notched a sack towards the quarter’s end.

The Battlehawks’ defense made crucial plays, including a Mike Rose interception off Panthers quarterback E.J. Perry. Michigan started the second quarter strong, with Perry connecting with Devin Ross for a 42-yard play to the St. Louis six-yard line, but Perry’s second interception by Qwynnterrio Cole halted the drive. St. Louis converted this turnover into a 36-yard field goal by Andre Szmyt, leading 3-0 at halftime.

In the second half, Michigan’s defense remained solid, with Daniel Wise sacking McCarron, forcing St. Louis to punt. Michigan’s offense then came to life, with Perry throwing two consecutive passes for 40 yards, followed by a 41-yard pass to Cole Hikutini. Perry completed the drive with a four-yard touchdown run, and Michigan took a 7-3 lead after a successful one-point conversion.

St. Louis attempted to regain the lead in the fourth quarter but was stopped on fourth down by Walter Palmore. The Battlehawks later scored on a McCarron pass to Sutherland, leading 9-7 after a failed two-point conversion.

Michigan responded with Wes Hills rushing for 18 and 24 yards consecutively, and Perry scoring another touchdown run, followed by a successful two-point conversion to Ross, bringing the score to 15-9. St. Louis then drove downfield, with McCarron connecting with Marcell Ateman for a 25-yard play on fourth down and a five-yard touchdown pass to Ateman, taking a 16-15 lead with 49 seconds left.

With no timeouts, Michigan drove into field goal range, and Bates clinched the win with a 64-yard field goal. Perry completed 12/24 passes for 176 yards with two interceptions and two rushing touchdowns. McCarron finished with 24/37 passes for 216 yards and one touchdown.

Hills led Michigan’s rushing with 85 yards on 11 attempts, while Wayne Gallman was St. Louis’ top rusher with 40 yards on 13 attempts. Ross was Michigan’s leading receiver with 46 yards on two receptions, and Ateman led St. Louis with 60 yards and a touchdown on six catches.

The Panthers (1-0) will host the Birmingham Stallions (1-0) next Sunday at Ford Field, while the Battlehawks (0-1) will face the Arlington Renegades (0-1) in their UFL home opener.

**Postgame Notes:**

– Jake Bates’ 64-yard field goal was his career longest and the second-longest in Ford Field history.
– Bates, primarily a kickoff specialist in college, had not kicked an impactful field goal since high school.
– EJ Perry is now 2-0 in regular season games with the Panthers.
– Nine Michigan receivers caught passes, with none making more than two receptions.
– Wes Hills led all rushers with 85 yards in his first game as a Panther.
– Kai Nacua had 11 tackles, including a sack and two tackles-for-loss.
– Daniel Wise had a game-high two sacks.
– Michigan’s defense held St. Louis’ passing attack to 199 yards and recorded 3.5 sacks.