SAGINAW, MI — The Saginaw Sting weren't the best in the first quarter.
They were just fine the last three.
Chicago came to town Saturday, April 25 and jumped out to a 17-0 lead on Saginaw, but the Sting stung the Blitz over the final three quarters en route to a 55-40 win.
Saginaw improved to 2-2 handing Chicago (4-1) its first loss of the season.
Chicago took advantage of a missed assignment by the Sting to score a 27-yard touchdown pass from Tommy Kudyha to Brian Milles on its first possession of the game, and the Blitz carried a 7-0 advantage into the second quarter.
They added a 20-yard field goal by Julie Harshbarger and a 2-yard Bryant Pascascio touchdown run to build a 17-0 .
Saginaw got on the board in the second when AJ McKenna found Daryl Gooden on a crossing round for a 27-yard touchdown, and he hooked up with CJ Tarver on a 4-yard scoring strike to make it 17-14.
Kudyha and Brown scored on a 10-yard pass play with 29 seconds left in the half putting Chicago on top 24-14.
A seemingly different Sting team came out of the half immediately clawing their way back.
Edison Vushaj collapsed the pocket rushing the passer from his defensive end position, which forced an errant throw by Chicago on the Blitz's first possession. Tarver picked off the pass, and he added a 15-yard touchdown run on the ensuing possession for a 24-21 game.
Saginaw took its first lead of the game on a DeShawn Hayes touchdown run in the third, and LaTreze Mushatt made it a 35-24 lead when he returned a fumbled field goal snap by Chicago for a touchdown.
McKenna threw two more touchdown passes in the fourth, and Hayes added another rushing touchdown.
Banks threw a pair of late touchdowns for the Blitz.
There were three turnovers in the game, and they were all committed by Chicago. The Sting recovered two fumbles and picked off a pass.
Saginaw rushed for 47 yards as a team, while holding the Blitz to minus-8 yards rushing.
Saginaw's offense showed an ability to score points and get multiple players involved in the offense. Hayes rushed for a game-high 48 yards, and four different receivers recorded receptions for the Sting.
Gooden had six receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown, and Tarver had six receptions for 57 yards and three total touchdowns.
Hayes had a productive night in the backfield finishing with eight carries for 48 yards and two touchdowns, but Terrence Blevins Jr. added a nice power compliment in the backfield for Saginaw.
Slow starts have been an epidemic for Saginaw this year. The Sting have been shutout in the first quarter three times this year. They fell into a three-possession hole two different times against the Blitz.
Defensively, the Sting are still susceptible to giving up the big play. Chicago's first scoring play travelled 27 yards, and the Blitz added scoring plays of 30 and 15 yards in the fourth quarter.
Kicker Joshua McIntosh missed an extra point, but he made up for it with an uno on the ensuing kickoff. However, another extra point in the fourth quarter was blocked.
SAGINAW, MI — The Saginaw Sting finally feel like they're running on all cylinders.
And a key one is quarterback where A.J. McKenna is back in the fold.
Due to injury concerns and ineffectiveness, Saginaw parted ways with quarterback Brady Attaway and brought back McKenna who was an all-conference performer leading the Sting to the brink of a championship.
"Every season, no matter what, my main goal is to win a championship," Saginaw head coach and co-owner Stuart Schweigert said. "I will do anything in my ability to do that. If we're going to continue to win and win a championship, I feel we're going to do that with AJ as our quarterback."
Saginaw (1-2) hosts Chicago at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 25 at The Dow Event Center in McKenna's third start of the season.
Attaway joined the Sting out of Stephen F. Austin University where he set more than a dozen passing records, but he struggled adapting to the indoor game. He has been out with a concussion since midway through the second game of the season and finishes the year with four touchdowns and eight interceptions.
With Attaway out of commission, Saginaw turned to a familiar face in McKenna who wasted no time getting up to speed for his first game against Cleveland completing 9 of 18 passes for 89 yards and four touchdowns.
"He's been a blessing to us," Schweigert said. "The guys have really gravitated to him. He's a leader on this team."
A Saginaw comeback attempt last week against Alabama came up short in McKenna's second start, but the production has restored confidence in the offense as Saginaw approaches the home stretch.
And he's leading the charge from Scranton, Pennsylvania.
McKenna, who attended camp with the New Orleans Saints after college, took a job with the Scranton school district at the beginning of the school year, which keeps him busy during the week. In order to play for the Sting, he flies into town Saturday morning, plays Saturday night and flies home Sundays.
Former Bay City Western star Austin Pichiotino serves as the team's quarterback during practice, and McKenna works out on his own and does film sessions over the phone with Schweigert in addition to taking night classes towards a graduate degree in special education.
"We knew A.J. Was going to be good, but the A.J. who came back is better than the A.J. we've seen," Schweigert said. "A lot of it has to do with the mental part of it."
McKenna said he's happy with his career at this point and isn't sure if football is in the cards in the future, but he wouldn't miss one last hurrah with the Sting for anything.
"To not begin the season and then come back and win a championship would be a good way to go out," he said.
SAGINAW, MI -- CJ Tarver is regularly the smallest player on the football field, but he also regularly makes the biggest impact.
A 5-foot-8, 160-pound wide receiver, Tarver has been starring at indoor football for four years with the Saginaw Sting, and his performance has come at a level that has Canadian Football League scouts looking past his size at his immense production.
Since joining the organization in 2012, Tarver has scored a touchdown receiving, rushing, passing, off an interception return and kickoff return earning Special Team Player of the Year and league Most Valuable Player.
"He's a very smart football player," Sting coach Stuart Schweigert said. "He's not only very athletic, but he knows the game. He knows situations, and he's a guy who wants to make the play."
He knows the game despite a lack of football background after an injury prevented him from playing collegiately. However, that hasn't prevented him making an impact with the Sting.
Tarver returned the opening kickoff of the 2015 season back for a touchdown finishing with nine receptions for 87 yards and another touchdown in a loss to Reading before adding a touchdown reception and taking snaps against York. In Saginaw's first win of the season against Cleveland, he had two receptions for two touchdowns and recorded three interceptions on defense, returning one for a touchdown and another on a 2-point conversion.
"He's like a water bug out there," Schweigert said. "He can make a lot of people miss in a small area."
It's easy to see why Tarver stands out. He's a small man playing among giants, and he's a star among stud athletes. That pales in comparison to the dedication he's shown just to play the game.
An Albany, New York native and resident, Tarver makes the flight to Saginaw two times a week for practice and a third time for Sting games before catching the red eye back home. As a worker for Delta Airlines, he can deadhead on flights wherever the airline flies.
"I love it," Tarver said of the travel he undertakes to play for the Sting. "I have a passion for the game."
Last season, Tarver was one of a handful of Saginaw players who caught the eye of Winnipeg Blue Bombers scout Drew Morris running a 4.37-second 40-yard dash, which earned an invitation to camp with the CFL club. Tarver wowed the coaching staff earning a contract, but a coaching change left him on the outside looking in once more.
He hasn't given up on his dream though taking another shot Saturday, April 18 before Saginaw's non-conference game against Huntsville.
"He's working out with Edmonton in Tampa in the morning, then he's catching a flight from Tampa to Alabama, and we're going to pick him up for the game," Schweigert said. "We have guys commuting from Detroit, but he commutes from New York."