Saginaw Wins the First IFL Game
by Randy Snow
Originally posted on OurSportsCentral.com, Saturday, March 14, 2009
Friday night (March 13) was an emotional night at the LC Walker Arena in Muskegon, Michigan. It was the first game ever played in the newly formed Indoor Football League. The league was formed last year when United Indoor Football merged with the Intense Football League. However, Friday night's first game did not involve any teams from either of those two leagues.
The Muskegon Thunder hosted the Saginaw Sting in a game that saw two former teams from the Continental Indoor Football League kick off the new IFL's first season. The Sting had won the CIFL championship last year by defeating the Kalamazoo Xplosion 41-37.
Prior to the kickoff, former Thunder owner and player Adam Pringle was honored in a pre-game ceremony. Pringle owned the team along with his parents, Don and Julia Pringle. Adam, who was also a defensive lineman on the team, died on January 18 as the result of a snowmobile accident at the age of 31. A banner was lowered from the rafters containing the Thunder logo, Pringle's name and the years he played on the team, 2007-2008. His jersey number 36 was also painted on the field in tribute.
During pre-game warm-ups, Saginaw Sting players wore t-shirts that were powder blue (which is one of the Thunder's team colors). The shirts had the Sting logo on the front and Pringle's name and number on the back. The Saginaw players later presented the shirts to the Thunder players as they were introduced just before kickoff.
As each Thunder player was introduced, Mrs. Pringle was on hand to give each player a hug before they ran out onto the field. It was also announced that the IFL Defensive Player of the Year Award would be named after Adam.
Once the game started it was clear that it would take both teams some time to get used to the new 8-on-8 format. There were many penalties and turnovers committed by both teams throughout the night which led to one of the lowest scoring games I have ever attended involving Indoor Football.
For trivia fans, the first points in the new league were scored by Muskegon running back Brent Lesniak, who ran for a first quarter touchdown giving the Thunder a 7-0 lead. The Sting scored 10 unanswered points in the second quarter, but a safety on the last play of the first half had Muskegon trailing10-9 at halftime. Saginaw scored a late touchdown to secure the win and make the final score 16-9.
First year Muskegon head coach Brent White used a two-quarterback system during the game, primarily using veteran Thunder QB Dan Richard in the first and fourth quarters and rookie Cullen Finnerty in the second and third quarters. "Both of those guys are good at different things," White said. "But no matter who we had in there, we had a problem completing drives and getting things going." Finnerty starred at nearby Grand Valley State University and won two Division II National Championships for the school in 2003 and 2005.
Wide receiver Nick Body, who was the MVP of the CIFL championship game last year, re-signed with the Sting just days before the Muskegon game and had a fourth quarter touchdown catch for the Sting.
Saginaw co-owner Esteban Rivera explained why he and Mike Trumbull decided to move their team to the new league. "It was an opportunity to expose our players to a larger market," Rivera said after the game. "The teams are more spread out (across the country). I've always said publicly that I love the CIFL 7-on-7 format, but the IFL was a bigger market with bigger exposure."
Two IFL rules that I found unique were allowing two players to be in motion towards the line of scrimmage at the same time and the 90-second timing rule at the end of each half. Every other Indoor or Arena league that I have ever covered has had a one-minute timing rule and only one player in motion at a time.
If the Indoor Football League sounds familiar, you are correct. A previous league also known by the same name existed in 1999 and 2000.
The Saginaw Sting host the River City Rage on Friday, March 20 while the Muskegon Thunder will host the Bloomington Xtreme on Saturday, March 28
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Randy Snow is a freelance football writer from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Since 2003, he has covered the Arena Football League, arenafootball2, United Indoor Football, the Continental Indoor Football League, the Indoor Football League, the All American Football League and the Canadian Football League. Randy has been a member of the Arena Football League Writer's Association since 2005 and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also maintains the web site www.theworldoffootball.com.
(Pictures by Adam Snow)