As a 7 year old in 1977 Saginaw, I can vividly remember the electricity and excitement inside the Civic Center as I was fortunate enough to watch the Saginaw Gears beat the Toledo Goaldigger’s to win the IHL’s Turner Cup. That win gave the City of Saginaw its first Championship (by a professional/semi-pro sports team). I can remember my parents and neighbors camping out in front of the Civic Center throughout the Turner Cup final series, making sure that we would not miss this historic event. As an 11 year old during the 1980-81 Gears season, I remember watching all of the “Hockey crazed fans” jumping over the glass to get onto the ice surface after the Gears beat the Kalamazoo Wings to win another Turner Cup, the 2nd championship for our “Blue Collar” City.
Friday evening, it was The Saginaw Sting - an indoor arena football team that competes in the UIFL (United Indoor Football League) – that would bring another trophy to the city I love so much. The Sting beat the Eastern Kentucky Drillers in an offensive shootout by a score of 86-69 to capture the League’s inaugural championship game, the “Ultimate Bowl.” This is not the 1st championship for the "Sting." On June, 29th 2008, the Saginaw Sting (under different ownership) won a championship when they competed in the now defunct CIFL, beating the Kalamazoo Xplosion 41-37 at Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo, Mi. That was definitely a championship for Saginaw, but there is something special when the championship game is actually played inside the City of Saginaw.
Back in the 1966 NFL season, the Green Bay Packer’s won the inaugural “Super Bowl.” The Packers wore green uniforms, and were coached by a guy named Vince, whose last name started with an L. The 2011 Saginaw Sting won the Ultimate Indoor Football Leagues inaugural “Ultimate Bowl,” they have green uniforms, they too have a coach named Vince whose last name starts with an L, and this Vince is from the small town of Engadine in Michigan’s upper peninsula, which happens to be pretty close to Green Bay. Could this be a Coincidence??? I’m just sayin….
All kidding aside, Saginaw Sting head Coach Vince Leveille has earned his place in Saginaw sports history. He started out as a coach at Vassar H.S. and moved on to help out at SVSU, before becoming the offensive coordinator on the Saginaw Sting Championship team back in 2008.
Coach Leveille may have been born a “Yooper,” but he is happy to call Saginaw his home just as well. “We were so happy to bring another Championship to the City of Saginaw,” Sting Head Coach Vince Leveille said. “With all of the economic problems in Saginaw and across the state of Michigan over the last few years, it’s nice to give our great fans a championship.”
The Saginaw Sting were led by indoor/arena Journeyman and former Indiana University QB (1999-2003), Tommy Jones. Jones had an epic night inside the Dow Event Center. Jones threw for 346 yards, completed 25 of his 36 pass attempts, while setting a UIFL record with 10 touchdowns en route to becoming the 2011 Ultimate Bowl MVP.
Coach Leveille has provided Jones with a stable of great receivers whom he can count on at anytime. Friday night it was LaVaughn Macon. Macon, a former New Mexico Highlands University star, led all receivers with 8 catches, 418 receiving yards, and 6 touchdowns.
“He is so good at getting open,” Sting Coach Vince Leveille said about Macon. “It’s easy to call (offensive) plays when you have two legitimate deep threats in Andrew Beaver(SVSU) and Zac Nichols(Northern Michigan University) and a little short guy who will run all over the place out there, he is very exciting to watch and a joy to coach.”
The Sting had to rely on their defense in order to just get a shot at playing in the championship game, when last week, they beat the Northern Kentucky River Monster’s, led by former New York Giants and Kentucky University QB, Jared Lorenzen aka “the hefty lefty.” Saginaw Sting QB, Tommy Jones was not available for last week’s semi-final matchup and the Sting were forced to rely on their defense. Jones’ semi-final absence ultimately forced Saginaw to use a wide receiver turned quarterback, who had never played a single down at the position. They won none the less. Jones returned to lead his team in a big way on Friday. “I am so happy to be part of such a close team,” Sting QB Tommy Jones said. “When you start the season with the same group of guys from day one, and put in all the hard work, then you win in such big fashion, it’s just a huge boost to win at home with a great group of teammates, we’re all just like a big family.”
The Sting will return for the 2012 season starting in February with training camp. Let’s hope to see many more championships in this great City we call Saginaw.