SAGINAW, MI — The Saginaw Sting's No. 1 goal this season was to win a championship, and they're less than two weeks away from playing for one.
That is if they can get by Chicago again.
Saginaw, which secured the No. 2 seed, hosts the Blitz at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 30 in the American Indoor Football League semifinals with the winner moving on to play for the championship.
"The main thing is to focus on the job at hand and the job at hand is to win a playoff game regardless of who it is," Saginaw co-owner and head coach Stuart Schweigert said. "We have to win this game to win a championship."
The two teams met twice this season with the Sting sweeping both games 55-40 and 57-23, but that doesn't mean much to Schweigert and company.
"According to them, they had a lot of guys injured in both of our games," he said. "It sounds like they've had the ability to heal up themselves. They brought in two new quarterback and two new receivers.
"It's tough to continue to beat a team. To beat them back-to-back is hard. To beat them back-to-back-to-back is even tougher."
The Sting have run into several tough spots in the 2015 season including a two-game losing streak to start the season and various roster turnover, but they've come through it all with six straight wins to earn a playoff berth at 6-2 overall.
In the process they've outscored teams by an average of 68.8-to-27.2.
"I talk about our No. 1 goal is to establish a running game on offense, and our No. 1 goal on defense is to not allow them to have a running game," Schweigert said. "Make them one dimensional."
Saginaw was successful at both keys in its first two meetings with Chicago holding the Blitz to a total of minus-11 yards rushing, while rushing for 74 yards and five touchdowns.
The Sting have also won the turnover battle 4-to-1.
"Our offense is doing very, very well," Schweigert said. "Defensively, I'm going to be tough on the guys. If we can hold our opponent to 35 points or less (we have a good chance of winning).
"If they're going to score on us, they're going to earn it. We can't have any free-bees."
SAGINAW, MI — The Saginaw Sting started off slow in the opening weeks of the season, but they've surged down the stretch to secure a home playoff berth.
Saginaw went on the road and beat Buffalo 79-30 on Saturday, May 16 for its fifth straight win on the field, but the Sting are receiving a forfeit win for their regular season finale against Atlanta.
With the forfeit, the Sting improve to 6-2 overall on the season and earn the No. 2 seed for the American Indoor Football League playoffs. Saginaw is scheduled to host No. 3-seed Chicago the weekend of May 29-31. Date and time for the game haven't been determined.
"We're right where we want to be," Sting coach and co-owner Stuart Schweigert said. "We have a home playoff game."
No. 1-seeded York hosts No. 4-seed ASI Reading in the other half of the bracket.
Saginaw has done a complete turnaround after struggling to a pair of season-opening losses against Reading and York.
The Sting have scored 70 points on offensive in three of their five wins averaging 68.8 points a game during that time, while holding the opposition to 27.2 points a game.
"We're doing the things offensively that I wanted to do," Schweigert said. "We're establishing the run. I think DeShawn Hayes has 12 or 13 touchdowns in the last three games. We're putting points on the board.
"We're holding them defensively. We're creating chances and forcing turnovers."
Saginaw has played Chicago twice already this season. The Sting came from behind for a 55-40 win in the first game in Saginaw and defeated the Blitz on the road 57-23.
"We need the fans to come out," Schweigert said of the playoff game. "This is what you play football for. This is playoff football, this is fun. It's hard to beat teams back-to-back let alone back-to-back-to-back."
SAGINAW, MI — The Saginaw Sting have capped their comeback campaign with a fifth straight win after downing Buffalo 79-30 on the road over the weekend.
Saginaw improved to 5-2 overall.
The Sting opened the game taking a 14-7 lead into the second quarter before pushing it to 27-18 at the half. They rolled in the second half outscoring the Lightning 52-12.
DeShawn Hayes rushed for 87 yards and four touchdowns for Saginaw, while Mathis Quillan was a playmaker all over the field scoring three touchdowns on offense and adding two interceptions on defense, including one that he returned for a touchdown.
Austin Pichiotino rushed for a touchdown for Saginaw.
Edison Vushaj had three tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles. He also deflected a pass, and Desmond Kenner recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown.
The final game on the regular season schedule for the Sting is a road game schedule for Saturday, May 23 against the Atlanta Sharks.
SAGINAW, MI — For Bay City Western fans, it has been a bit of déjà vu watching the Saginaw Sting this season.
Austin Pichiotino has been all over the field making plays since joining the team punishing ball carriers, picking off passes and plunging in for touchdowns.
The last time many of the Warriors faithful saw Pichiotino roaming the field making plays was when he re-writing record books leading Western to the playoffs, and now he's trying to do the same playing professional indoor football with the Sting.
"It's something new," he said. "It's a lot different than being outside and being able to run around, a lot quicker decisions."
On Saturday, May 9 he had his most dynamic performance of the season leading the team with eight total tackles and hauling down two interceptions helping lead Saginaw to a 79-37 come-from-behind win over Buffalo.
Pichiotino and the Sting have a rematch with Buffalo on the road Saturday, May 16.
It was the fourth straight win for the Sting and a performance for Pichiotino that has been nearly four years in the making.
A record-setting quarterback in high school, Pichiotino was the MLive Bay City Times Player of the Year in 2011 when he threw for 1,821 yards and 24 touchdowns, including a state-record tying seven touchdown game against No. 1-ranked Mount Pleasant.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound athlete capped off his high school career with 5,120 passing yards and 63 career touchdowns, which earned a spot on the MHSAA all-time list. He also rushed for 2,790 yards and 41 touchdowns before embarking on what was supposed to be an equally successful college career.
It didn't turn out that way.
Pichiotino, 22, played a redshirt season at Northwood in 2012 before stepping away from the game.
"I was en route to (playing for the Timberwolves)," he said. "They had me playing quarterback, then they had me playing receiver and punting. I was going to transfer out and go to a different school, but I never got to it."
Since then he's been biding his time waiting for another opportunity and that came in a flag football league in Saginaw where he played with Saginaw Sting co-owner and head coach Stuart Schweigert.
"I knew he was an athlete," Schweigert said. "We had him come out and had him at receiver first. He was a little concerned because he wasn't getting much playing time. But I said, 'Pich, we need you at quarterback for us.' At the time, I didn't know what was going on with AJ (McKenna)."
McKenna was able to work out a deal and play out the season with Saginaw, but Pichiotino's pure athleticism has secured a future with the franchise going forward as the potential for next season.
Since missing the first two games of the year, Pichiotino has rejoined the club as the practice quarterback — with McKenna living in Pennsylvania during the week — and has gained game experience as a gunner on special teams, in the defensive backfield and mop-up duty behind center.
In a win over Cleveland, he threw for one touchdown and rushed for another.
"He's a heck of an athlete," Schweigert said. "He can play wide receiver, cornerback, running back, safety. One thing we've been lacking is that position on defense, that other cornerback spot, and I think now we've finally found our guy."
And they'll need him now more than ever as Saginaw aims to keep its winning streak alive and earn a playoff berth.
Since dropping their first two games of the season, the Sting have won four straight with wins needed in their final two playoff games to have a shot at a playoff game at home.