Football: Sting open season at East Ridge with 66-0 win
In the Minnesota Sting's first game of the 2013 season, offensive coordinator Bryan Wrich didn't know what to expect from the team's opponent - the Carlton County Stampede, an expansion team from the Duluth-Superior area.
Turns out it wasn't much.
The Sting pounded Carlton County 66-0 in the season opener on Saturday, May 4, at East Ridge High School.
"The guys were just excited as could be," said Wrich, a 1995 graduate of Park High School and former Wolfpack and Minnesota State University-Mankato player who is in his second year with the Sting.
"Everyone was a little nervous at first, but everybody came through and played great. It was a great feeling to get that first one out of the way."
After taking a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, the Sting put up 38 points in the second quarter - and the rout was on.
"We were expecting a lot more out of them, but they are an expansion team," Wrich said. "We were pretty surprised with how bad their play was."
Carlton County had no answer for Sting running back Darren Edwards. Despite playing less than a half, Edwards ran for 121 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged 17.3 yards per carry.
Last year Edwards, a team captain, set a new record for rushing yards in a single season with 1,435.
"His nickname is Train," Wrich said. "You can see why he's earned it. That guy runs downhill at all times and is just like a bowling ball. When someone does tackle him, usually it's him hitting them. He's just such a force."
In addition to Edwards, Sting quarterback Tim Bona completed eight passes for 154 yards and four touchdowns - two to newcomer Damien Lolar and two to last year's leading receiver, Jauhem Byrd-Mix. Lolar had 56 yards receiving and Byrd-Mix had 39 yards receiving. In addition, receiver Josh Swift caught two passes for 56 yards.
Lolar is in his first year with the Sting. The 6-foot-5, 225-pounder has recently played professional basketball in Europe and for the Denver Nuggets Developmental League team, the Colorado 14ers.
"Damien is showing he's not afraid to go over the middle," Wrich said. "It's tough for any safety to compete with that guy. Bird and Swift continue to do what they do - run good, crisp routes and fight to get open - I couldn't be happier with how the offense played Saturday."
Last year, the Sting offense set a new league record in most points scored in a season (500) with Bona setting a record for passing yards in a season with 1,441.
"I was pleased with what we were able to do," Wrich said. "I thought the offensive line played phenomenally well, Darren was dominant and you can see that Tim has a great mastery of the offense."
The Sting defense was just as dominant as its offense in the game.
Linebacker Steve Paz helped lead the way with six tackles and a sack. Fellow linebackers Chueye Kong, Derrick Brooks and defensive back Elijah Dodds also had six tackles a piece, and defensive end Jordan Sallis had three tackles and a sack. The Sting forced four fumbles in the game, recovering three of them, to go along with one interception. Defensive lineman Jerome Martin recovered two fumbles and defensive back Ricardo Harris scooped up another fumble. Fellow defensive back Jacob Rodriguez had the Sting's interception to go along with three tackles.
"The defense got a much-needed confidence boost," Wrich said. "It was a good game for us to get some work in."
The Sting plays in the Minnesota Premier Football League with other teams from across Minnesota - the Brainerd Lumberjacks, the Midwest Nightmare, the Twin Cities Titans, the Granite City Renegades, the West Central Broncos, the Minnesota Phoenix and the Carlton County Stampede. 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.
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.
This Saturday, May 11, the Sting play host to the Midwest Nightmare, a team based out of Spring Lake Park. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.
Wrich said he expects a little more competition in game No. 2.
"They've been around for a while," he said. "They were decent last year and got some new talent on the team this year. They went toe-to-toe with the Titans this week.
"We're off to a good start. Our goal is a shot at the national title. That starts with beating teams we should beat."