On Saturday, the Pittsburgh Maulers will look to punch their ticket to the USFL title game as they host the Michigan Panthers in the North Division Championship in Canton, Ohio.
Despite posting a 4-6 record during the regular season, the Maulers claimed the top seed in the North Division after taking down the New Jersey Generals 26-6 last week.
In order to gain possession of the No. 1 seed, the Maulers once again relied on stout defense by pitching a shutout in the second half against the Generals. Mark Gilbert and Arnold Tarpley III both snagged interceptions in the win, which has become a commonality for the two defensive backs as Gilbert finished atop the league with four interceptions while Tarpley III recorded three on the season.
Along with a league leading 13 interceptions, the Maulers put together one of the best defenses in the USFL this season. The Maulers’ pass defense averaged 174.1 yards per game, which took the top mark in the league, along with holding teams to a passing completion of 57.5%.
While Pittsburgh’s offense struggled earlier in the season, the Maulers have averaged 23.8 points per game across the final four games, including a two-game win streak to close out the season.
The Maulers will look for the trifecta over the Panthers on Saturday as they won both matchups during the regular season, including a 19-7 win two weeks ago.
Rebounding after their loss against the Maulers, the Panthers edged out the reigning North Division Champions, the Philadelphia Stars, 23-20. In his first start of the season, quarterback E.J. Perry threw for 121 yards, along with 48 rushing yards and ran for a go-ahead touchdown on the ground in the fourth quarter.
The Panthers have also started to play well defensively down the stretch, shutting out teams in the second half over their past three games. The Panthers also boast the league sacks leader in Breeland Speaks, who was named to the All-USFL Defense Team.
Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. on Saturday at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio and will be broadcast on NBC. The USFL Championship will be held in Canton on July 1.