Football: Sting win league championship
Led by its stifling defense, the Minnesota Sting, a Minor League football team which called East Ridge High School home this summer, won its their first Midwest Premier Football League Championship on Saturday Aug. 4, defeating the Brainerd Lumberjacks 27-0 in front of more than 700 fans at Hamline University in St. Paul.
"I couldn't be more proud of the way the guys played. It was a lot of fun this year and a huge ride," said Minnesota Sting Offensive Coordinator Bryan Wrich - a 1995 graduate of Park and a former player for the Wolfpack and Minnesota State University-Mankato. "The stadium was nearly full. It added to the feel. The guys on the field were able to feed off it. It was an absolutely great atmosphere."
The Sting have been an organization for three 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. Among those on the Sting roster are locals like Park graduate Brandon Johnson, Tartan grads Bryan Henderson and Cameron Perket and South St. Paul graduate Todd Sherry.
Wrich said winning the championship wasn't a surprise to him, but it was none-the-less awesome.
"When we started the season and I saw the weapons that we had I thought we had a serious shot at winning the league this year," Wrich said. "It was a fantastic ending."
The Sting's defense was key in the team's championship win. The Sting forced six interceptions, three by safety Ian McPherson alone. In the Sting's two playoff games it outscored opponents 76-0. Also, on special teams, Zach Louis blocked a punt in the endzone, which was recovered by Chris Lipscomb for a touchdown.
"Pitching a shutout in a championship game isn't an easy thing to do, but our defense made it look easy. Our special teams played phenomenal too," Wrich said.
On offense, running back Darren Edwards had the lone offensive touchdown. After the Sting forced a turnover, its offense put together a drive, resulting in Edwards scoring from the 7-yard line. In addition, place kicker Shawn Bibeau had two field goals in the win - one from 50 yards and the other from 46 yards out.
The win gave the Sting an 11-1 overall record for the year and its first league championship in its three year existence. This year, the Sting set a new league record in most points scored in a season (500), Edwards set a new record for rushing yards in a single season (1,435), Tim Bona set a record for passing yards in a season (1,441), and Dan Powell set a Sting record with eight interceptions in a season. 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 this season.
Because of its dominance, the Sting had 13 of the 26 Midwest Premier Football League All-Stars this year - Bona, Edwards, offensive tackles Adam Hollurud and Jerome Martin, guards Charlie Stubfors and Cameron Perket, receiver Jauhem Bryd, linebackers Derrick Brooks and Ross Seiffert and cornerback James Jones earned All-Star awards, with receiver Josh Swift, punter and safety Daniel Powell and Bibeau earning honorable mention honors.
Tryouts for the 2013 Sting team will be held sometime in November. The team's Organized Team Activities (OTA) will take place in February just prior to practice, which start in March. The team works out indoors at the Vadnais Heights Sports Complex.
"Right now we'll be in rest and recover mode," Wrich said. "We have some players that have a legitimate shot at getting paid to play somewhere. We have a couple players that will be trying out for various teams, arena leagues, CFL and NFL clubs. If they can get paid to play, that's great. That's what this whole thing is all about.
"We'll see what we have, try to retain players that aren't going to get paid or go to college and basically reload for next year."