EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - FEBRUARY 29: Luis Perez #7 of the NY Guardians looks to pass against the LA Wildcats during the first half of their XFL game at MetLife Stadium on February 29, 2020 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
(Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

In his first XFL start, Luis Perez got the New York Guardians offense on the right track en route to a 17-14 win at MetLife Stadium.

Geoff Magliocchetti

If revenge is a dish best served cold, Luis Perez had the perfect cooking conditions on Saturday afternoon.

Perez made his first XFL start at MetLife Stadium, one that ended in a 17-14 victory for him and his New York Guardians. The victims were the Los Angeles Wildcats, Perez’s brief employers after he was one of eight quarterbacks individually allotted to the league’s squads.

Los Angeles would go on to ship Perez across the country via a trade to New York weeks before the season began. The deal was brought upon by the addition of NFL veteran Josh Johnson to their cause.

Johnson impressed with a whopping 330-yard tally, but Perez had the de facto last laugh via a narrow victory.

Asked after the game if vengeance was on his mind, the Gotham-branded quarterback was only satisfied with the victory.

“This was the definition of a team win,” Perez said in his postgame press conference. “(Kicker Matt McCrane) making all of those kicks, and they were some long kicks. (Punter Justin Vogel), at the end, pinning them inside the 10-yard line, offense doing our part. We talk about no turnovers all the time in all aspects, and the defense got one, and we didn’t turn it over.”

The efforts of Perez, 25, came at the perfect time for the Guardians. Reeling after listless losses to divisional competition, the Guardians (2-2) appeared to be in even more dire straits when their own allotted quarterback, Matt McGloin, was ruled out for Saturday’s tilt. Perez did what he could to put the team at ease.

Previously partaking in garbage time efforts in the most recent loss in St. Louis, Perez threw for a serviceable 150 yards on 18-of-26 passing. He helped New York build an early lead by scoring points on three consecutive possessions. Earlier this season, the Guardians had gone 26 straight drives without a touchdown, a streak that Perez ended during his St. Louis cameo.

Only one touchdown awaited Perez on Saturday, but his efforts were enough to secure a win and keep Johnson and the mighty Wildcats off the field. New York won the time-of-possession battle with a ledger of 32:48.

“There are a lot of plays that I wish I had back,” Perez admitted when describing his first start. “As a quarterback, you want to be perfect all the time, but obviously that’s not going to be the case, but ultimately it’s about improving, so I’m going to go back and watch the tape and improve for next week.”

Saturday saw Perez’s incredible gridiron journey continue. He never played varsity football in high school, focusing more on basketball and bowling. Nonetheless, injuries and transfers allowed Perez to catapult up the depth chart at junior college Southwestern.

When he impressed at the JUCO level, Perez was able to play his way into a transfer of his own to Division II Texas A&M-Commerce. The invite from the Lions paid off in the form of over 8,000 passing yards and 78 touchdowns in two seasons, the latter of which ended in a national title. Perez would go onto win the Harlon Hill Trophy — Division II’s equivalent of the Heisman — in the latter season as well.

In between a few NFL training camp visits, Perez was a starter for the Birmingham Iron of the Alliance of American Football. When the AAF fell, the XFL’s rise ensured he wouldn’t stay unemployed for long.

Since then, Perez has made his mark in New York and recently welcomed his first child alongside his wife Brenda. Even though Perez has spent the least amount of time within the New York facility amongst the quarterbacks, head coach Kevin Gilbride praised the dedication he’s shown thus far.

“I thought Luis showed the kind of poise and composure and understanding of what we’re trying to do that you like to see from that position. I was very pleased with his effort,” Gilbride said. “He’s like most quarterbacks that are the right makeup – the competitive kind of guys that like to be pushed, they like to be coached, they like to be taught as to what you’re trying to achieve.”

Gilbride snuffed out quarterback controversy columns by insisting he wasn’t ready to talk about a pending decision if and when McGloin returns from a thorax injury. But there’s no doubt that Perez has earned the longtime coach’s respect and trust.

“He certainly is a guy that enjoys being a student of the game, a guy that likes to come in and watch the film,” Gilbride said. “When we finish the day at about 5:00, it’s a long day. A lot of guys aren’t looking to come back in, you know. They’ve been here since 8:00 this morning, but he’s there every night. He’s got that kind of drive to absorb as much information and as much knowledge as he can, and he’s done a terrific job in a short period of time. He’s the makeup you’re looking for, no question about it.”

The Guardians return to action next Saturday on the road against the Dallas Renegades (5 p.m. ET, FOX).

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Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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