The buzz is back: Sting minor league football team makes return to field Saturday
The buzz is back.
On Saturday, May 4, the Minnesota Sting minor league football team makes its return to the field. The Sting, calling south Washington County home for the second straight season, will play eight regular season games this spring and summer, including three at East Ridge High School and one at Woodbury High School.
The Sting plays in the Minnesota Premier Football League with other teams from across Minnesota - the Lakes Area Terror, the Brainerd Lumberjacks, the Twin Cities Titans, the Granite City Renegades and the Twin City Rhinos - along with two new teams this year in the West Central Broncos and the Midwest Nightmare. Vice President of Operations Brad Asplund and team President Aaron Anderson co-founded the Sting in 2009.
Last season, the Sting won its first Midwest Premier Football League championship defeating the Brainerd Lumberjacks 27-0 at Hamline University in St. Paul. The win gave the Sting an 11-1 overall record for the year and its first league championship in its three-year existence.
"We're all very excited to get back on the field," Sting starting quarterback Tim Bona said. "We've all put in a really committed offseason. Our goal is to be even better than last year. We look at this as a new team with bigger and better goals."
The Sting has been an organization for four years. A majority of the team's players are recent high school graduates and the roster is full of players hoping to advance into Arena League Football, the Canadian Football League or gain college scholarships. Some, however, are just trying to play football as much as they can for as long as they can.
The Sting have a number of locals on the roster, including Park graduate Brandon Johnson, first-year defensive end Uzoma Obasi, a Hill-Murray School graduate who grew up in Woodbury, and Jordan LaDouceur, who currently lives in Woodbury.
Bona, a 2006 Columbia Heights graduate, set a record for passing yards in a season with 1,441 last year and was one of the Sting's 13 Midwest Premier Football League All-Stars.
"We've got a good group of guys," Bona said. "One reason I'm with the team is because of the quality of people, not just the quality of football players, that are on this team. That's what stands out and makes me eager to be a part of what we have going on here."
Minnesota Sting Offensive Coordinator Bryan Wrich, a 1995 graduate of Park High School and former Wolfpack and Minnesota State University-Mankato player, is in his second year with the Sting.
"Even though this isn't the traditional time for football, we've got a lot of guys out here who are trying to make a run at a career at this or play as much football as they can play," Wrich said. "It's been nice to get back on the field; it's exciting. I'm looking forward to keeping this thing going and just have fun and win - that's the best part."
Last year the Sting was a very balanced offensive and defensive team. In its 12 games, the Sting's offense had a total of 4,151 yards and its defense had 65 sacks, 654 tackles and 28 interceptions. The defense also accounted for nine touchdowns.
Wrich said he believes the offense and defense will both be "very, very strong this year."
"I think we'll have enough firepower to carry us through," he said. "I'd love to repeat and take a shot at the national title this year."
"Our offense trusts our defense and our defense trusts our offense," he said. "We're a very balanced team. Last year our offense did some things to help our defense, but we relied on our defense a lot. They make practices fun and challenging."
Last year, the Sting set a new league record in most points scored in a season (500). Along with Bona's passing record, Sting running back Darren Edwards set a new record for rushing yards in a single season with 1,435. Edwards, a team captain, is also back to help lead the Sting offense this season.
In addition, the Sting returns LaDouceur, a 6-foot-4, 330-pound center, who Wrich called "the rock of the offensive line," and Shawn Bibeau, who was the all-time leader in field goals made at North Dakota State University, along with No. 1 and 2 receivers Jauhem Bryrd-Mix and Josh Swift.
"I don't think there are any better receivers around," Bona said. "We've built a lot of chemistry. There are some very subtle things that only come with work over time. The improved continuity is one thing that'll make us better this year."
The Sting also welcomes a new receiver to keep an eye on in Damien Lolar. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Lolar played professional basketball in Europe and for the Denver Nuggets Developmental League team, the Colorado 14ers.
"He just kind of fell into our lap," Wrich said. "He's just been phenomenal. He has so much athletic upside. He can out jump any safety."
On defense, the team will again be anchored by linebackers Derrick Brooks, Cole Lowell and Ross Seiffert, defensive tackle Tim Miron and cornerback James Jones.
Tryouts for the Sting were held this past November. The team held Organized Team Activities (OTAs) in February and started practicing in March - indoors at the Vadnais Heights Sports Complex.
Since the beginning, the Sting has worked hard to build a strong reputation in the area. The Sting took part in the Woodbury Expo this past summer. For the home opener this Saturday, the Sting will donate a portion of the proceeds to Randy Shaver's Tackle Cancer campaign to help his Cancer Research & Community Fund. Also, the Stings' final regular-season home game on June 8 will be Cottage Grove Athletic Association youth football day.
The games are $5 for adults and kids under 12 get in free. The games include full play-by-play and performances by The Minnesota Sting Performance Team
"We're trying to get more involved with the community," Wrich said. "We're really trying to build in the community and support the community. We want to put out a quality product and get the community behind us."