SAGINAW, MI — Saginaw faced two forms of adversity on Saturday.
Not only were the Sting facing a 6-1 Marion team, which was fighting for the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs, but they did so without two of their best playmakers.
Offensive weapon CJ Tarver missed the game and starting quarterback AJ McKenna left after the first quarter with a shoulder injury, but Saginaw changed its style and added a little energy to down the Blue Racers 28-25.
The Sting remain the only undefeated team in the league at 8-0, while Marion falls to 6-2. Saginaw secured homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.
“My hat goes off to our quarterback who went in,” Saginaw coach Fred Townsend said. “This was his very first game, his very first practice — everything. From the beginning, we had to teach him our system. To come in off the street and play our system is awesome.”
McKenna went down early in the second with the Sting trailing 14-7, and Justin Hemm came in off the bench.
Saginaw’s offense struggled early with Hemm at the helm, but the Sting relied more on its run game as Hemm rushed for a 31-yard touchdown in the third quarter before hooking up with Daryl Gooden on a 30-yard touchdown with 7:59 left in the fourth for what proved to be the game-winning score.
The Sting defense came up big with three turnovers inside its own 5-yard line, including a LaTreze Mushatt pick in the end zone with 3:18 left to seal the game.
Hemm was 6 of 9 passing for 78 yards and two total touchdowns. Deshawn Hayes led all rushers with 76 yards on the ground and one rushing score, while Gooden had seven receptions for 83 yards and two touchdowns.
Reggie Overton paced the defense with six total tackles.
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SAGINAW, MI — The Saginaw Sting welcomed a franchise record crowd of 3,886 fans to The Dow Event Center on Friday, March 21.
And they almost saw the indoor football version of March Madness and a Cinderella story.
Saginaw, which is the lone undefeated team left in the league, welcomed the winless Detroit Thunder to town, and the Sting fought off a relentless attack by the Thunder and sealed a 49-35 win with a LaTreze Mushatt interception that he returned 43 yards for a touchdown as time expired.
“It’s good that we’ve gone through that because sometimes you take for granted where you are and what you’re here for,” Sting coach Fred Townsend said. “Sometimes you think you can just step on the field and dominate.”
The Sting led 43-20 after Deshawn Hayes scored early in the fourth quarter, but Detroit fought back with touchdowns passes from James King to Daryl Frager and Anthony Bowman to draw within a score at 43-35.
“They made some plays, and we didn’t,” Townsend said. “We got stagnant, and we got lethargic.”
They were marching down the field all the way to the Sting 7-yard line when Mushatt picked off King’s final pass as time expired and took it to the house.
Hayes rushed for a game-high 45 yards rushing with 23 yards receiving and four total touchdowns. AJ McKenna was 16 of 27 passing for 147 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Daryl Gooden has six receptions for 66 yards.
Defense ruled throughout the first quarter until Hayes plunged in from six yards out as time expired on the first quarter. Chris Kolias pushed the extra point wide left, but he redeemed himself by launching the kickoff through the uprights for an uno and a point for the 7-0 lead.
Hayes scored another touchdown two minutes later before Detroit got on the board with a 29-yard touchdown pass from King to Reggie Eubanks. McKenna threw a 20-yard touchdown to Shuan Hladki only to see the Thunder answer with another King to Eubanks scoring strike for a 22-14 Sting lead.
McKenna and Hayes hooked up for another score late in the second to send a 29-14 game into the half.
Mckenna and Hladki connected on a 27-yard touchdown in the third quarter, but Detroit wouldn’t go away and it countered with a touchdown pass to Bowman.
Hayes scored his final touchdown at 12:42 of the fourth quarter on a 9-yard run when the Thunder began their comeback.
Saginaw’s Spenser Smith led all defenders with eight total tackles.
The Sting improved to 6-0, while the Thunder fell to 0-5.
SAGINAW, MI — Oh what a difference a year makes. Last year, Saginaw Sting quarterback AJ McKenna was becoming acclimated to a new city, new team and new offense, and the strong-armed signal caller struggled in the early going before rebounding down the stretch.
McKenna is back this year with most of his offense weapons, and they’re firing on all cylinders while pushing the Sting to the top of the league at 4-0 with the league’s best offense in total yardage and scoring.
“We know we’re going to score a lot of points every week,” Saginaw coach Fred Townsend said. “So you have to play a perfect game defensively, and you need to force turnovers.”
Saginaw hasn’t had many turnovers over the first month of the season, but it has scored a lot of points.
The Sting averaged 61 points a game heading into a rematch against defending champion Erie, and Saginaw overcome a slow first quarter to post a 45-27 victory and become the last unbeaten team in the Continental Indoor Football League.
And McKenna is a big reason for that.
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FREELAND, MI -- Sting Co-Owner Stuart Schweigert and some of the 2014 Sting players began their March is Reading Month campaign Monday, March 10th at Freeland Elementary School.
An assembly took place in the gymnasium from 2:45-3:20PM. Players shared real-life experiences to the kids focusing the importance of reading and how it helped to make them successful. Nearly 600 students were in attendance.
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- Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League holding private workout for Saginaw Sting players
- WIN a new 2014 Chevrolet Sonic LS from Draper Auto!