The Saginaw Sting: Bring Fresh Entertainment Alternative to the Tri-Cities

Posted In: Culture, Community Profiles, Sports, Local Sports, Saginaw Sting,   From Issue 655   By: Jack B Tany

28th February, 2008     0

"Are You Ready For Some Football?"
The opening lyrics of Monday Night Football telecasts by Hank Williams Jr.

You better tighten up your chinstrap.

That's because football fans from throughout the Tri-Cities are about to see a brand of football - and entertainment - they've never experienced before when indoor football debuts at The Dow Event Center.

The Saginaw Sting, members of the Continental Indoor Football League, will kick off its inaugural season with a 12-game schedule. The Sting will open up on the road against Flint March 9, while hosting the Marion (Ohio) Mayhem in its home opener March 21 at The Dow Event Center.

The Continental Indoor Football League brandishes a unique style of fast-paced indoor football with 7-on-7 action, which was designed to allow the fans to experience the wide-open feeling of 50-yard indoor football. Because of the short field, teams have the opportunity to score on every play. But it also allows defenses the opportunity to make plays as well. Typical games average over 80 points a game despite improved defensive rules.

"I've talked to women who had absolutely no interest in football," said Mike Johnson, owner/president of the Sting. "After seeing our product and the way the game is played and how close you are (to the field)," they eventually became season ticket holders."

"It's very non-traditional football," Johnson continued. "It is high energy with something always going on. Fans enjoy how close they are to the field, how animated the players get, and the effort the players put forth. They also see how hard the impact (of getting hit) is."

That's because the league is a professional development indoor football league created to give players the opportunity to play professional football. For some players, it will be a dream come true to step on the field and play football (and get paid) once again.

"The players try hard because they're looking to get noticed and possibly move up to another league," said Johnson, co-owner with Mike Trumbell and Estaban Rivera. Johnson, who played football for Wayne State University, is the youngest owner in the CIFL.

Johnson explained that the games will have a minor league feel with a lot of interaction with fans both during and after the game. He noted fans should remain on high alert at all times for footballs entering the stands because, like baseball, they get to keep them.

"It's totally a family environment. We cater to families with our professional halftime entertainment. We're going to do a Family Fun Zone area for the overall atmosphere. We'll have set promos where we'll involve our fans during the game." Johnson noted that the Sting will also be working with non-profit organizations in the area on on-field events such as Flag Football or Tug-of-War. A dance team is currently in the works.

The Sting recently held a "Pick Your Seat Night" for area residents to buy season tickets. Rob and Heather Ueberroth of Saginaw, both teachers with the Saginaw Public School District, arrived early to purchase four season tickets for themselves and sons Tyler and Cody.
"We're huge sports fans and huge football fans," said Rob Ueberroth. "I like to follow the Lions and she (Heather) follows both Michigan and Michigan State. We both follow the (Pittsburgh) Steelers because of LaMarr (Woodley). We bought tickets because we're football fans and we wanted to support the area."

Terry Fitzpatrick of Bay City purchased a pair of season tickets for him and his wife. The Delphi employee's son purchased a pair of ducats and he followed suit. "I thought I'd come down and get tickets," Fitzpatrick said. "I'm pretty excited about it."

Karl Featherstone, the 2007 CIFL Coach of the Year, is the Sting head coach. He has an extensive background in coaching, most recently leading the Port Huron Pirates to a Great Lakes Division Championship in 2007. Assistants include Steve Haskell (offensive coordinator), Rick Desotell (defensive coordinator), Jason Lovelock (line coach) and Vince Levielle (offensive assistant).
The coaching staff has conducted a couple of player tryout sessions around the area to see if any local products have what it takes to bang heads with the big boys. Johnson admitted some players will trickle down from other indoor teams from upper divisions to fill the roster.
Jeffrey Mackey, a three-year starter at safety for Saginaw Valley State University, is itching to get the pads on after a year away from the game. Mackey, who prepped at Bay City Central, said the team contacted him out of nowhere.

"They called me and said 'we heard you were pretty good,'" said Mackey. "It's a great opportunity. I'm just excited to get the pads back on and experience the competition."

"It's a little different because of the wall," said the 23-year-old Mackey, referring to the boards around the field which resemble hockey's dasher boards. "I live in Mt. Pleasant and that's an hour away. But when they say "football," I come running."

Another local product, Justin Rudy, also welcomes the opportunity to strut his stuff. The 2002 Heritage High School graduate played for Ferris State University for four years as a kicker. He earned his marketing degree at FSU and now is employed by the Coca-Cola Co. of Bay City.

"I was excited to see a team coming to the area," said Rudy. "It's going to be different, though, because of the narrow uprights and the cross bar being higher. Another challenge is going to be kicking indoors with the lower ceilings." Rudy, of Saginaw Township, booted a 42-yard field goal while in high school and boomed a 67-yarder during practice at Ferris.

"I'm excited being from around here," added Rudy. "I have a lot of family and friends in the area."

Two players who played for Port Huron a year ago but will don the green and orange uniform of the Sting this season are LeRoy Barnes and Jim Roth. Barnes was born in Saginaw but prepped at Midland High School where he graduated in 1999. He then played football for three years at the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff where he played all three offensive line positions.

"I'm back home now," said the 28-year-old Barnes, who works for Alloy Construction Co. of Carrollton. "I'll have a lot of family and friends in the stands."

Roth, meanwhile, is a wide receiver from Sterling Heights where he attended Utica Ford High School and then Macomb Community College. He was a rookie a year ago with Port Huron.

"I had fun and couldn't get away from it," said Roth, employed by JB Cutting of Mt. Clemens as a saw operator. "I've been playing football since the fourth grade and I just love the game. This (Saginaw Sting) seems like a great organization.

"It's hard not to get excited about it," said Johnson. "We're very pleased with the way season tickets are going right now. A family of four can see a game for just $36, so it's really affordable."

Tickets can be obtained through The Dow Event Center box office at (989) 759-1330.

RULES OF THE CIFL

FIELD SIZE - 50 yards long by 25 yards wide with end zones a minimum of five yards in depth. Padded dasher board walls around the entire field that act as an extension of the ground (only "out of bounds" if contact made by opposing player that forces player into the dasher wall, much like a "'down by contact' rule).

GOAL POSTS - Goal posts are 12 feet from the floor to the crossbar. The crossbar is 10 feet in width. Anything used to hang the goalpost is considered a part of the upright.

NUMBER OF PLAYERS - Seven players per team on the field at one time.

PLAYING TIME - Four 15-minute quarters with a running clock. Clock only stops for incomplete passes and out of bounds plays during the final minute of the second and fourth quarters. There is a 25-second play clock.

SCORING - Six points for a touchdown, two points for run or pass conversion, or drop kick PAT. One point for place kick PAT, two points for safety, three points for a field goal and four points for a drop kick field goal.

BACKFIELD IN MOTION - One player may be in motion in any direction behind the line of scrimmage prior to the snap.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN - Three linemen must be in a three or four-point stance prior to the snap. They must line up guard, center, guard next to one another. Any offensive lineman not covered up by the fourth man on the line of scrimmage is an eligible receiver if he is wearing an eligible receiver number (1-49, 80-89).

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN -There must be three defensive linemen and they must line up on the nose, or can line up inside foot to outside foot of the outside of an offensive lineman. Linemen must rush inside if nose up or slated into if shaded, and they must make contact before any movement to the outside is made.

BLITZING - Only one non-lineman can blitz at a time. This player can blitz from any direction, but must be at least five yards off the line of scrimmage/goal line prior to the snap. Players do not have to announce their eligibility to blitz.

LINEBACKERS - At least two defensive players must line up at leave five yards behind the line of scrimmage. The other two non-linemen must either line up face-to-face with an offensive non-lineman on the line, or be five yards behind the line of scrimmage. After the snap, this rule is eliminated and the players can roam anywhere they wish, provided it doesn't violate blitzing rules. Linebackers can line up at the goal line if the offense is within five yards of scoring.

KICKOFFS - If a kickoff leaves the field of play on the fly, the ball comes out to the 25-yard-line. The sideline walls and end zone walls are not out of bounds, and balls can be played off of them. If a kickoff leaves the field of play after making contact with the field or a player on either team, the ball comes out to the five-yard-line., or the point in which it leaves the field of play, whichever is closest to the kicking team's goal line.

OFFENSE - No punting. Offense must attempt to gain a first down or touchdown or may attempt a field goal (by placement or drop kick).

COACHES - One coach from each team is allowed on the field during game time, but must stay a required distance from the dasher boards.

OVERTIME - Overtime is played with NCAA-style rules (each team gets one possession), but each possession is started with a kickoff rather than at the 25-yard line. Teams must go for a two-point conversion (by scrimmage play) starting with the third overtime session.

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