By David Conde
With great anticipation, the 2013 started off with a bang for the Florida Stingrays. For an organization that saw their 2012 inaugural season end with a first round , on Saturday they looked like a team on a mission to finish this season as the top team in the United Football Federation. Now their opponent on Saturday may not have been a top caliber team, but it was a starting point for a .
The Stingrays opened up the 2013 season against their new cross-river rivals, theCape Coral Wolves. The Wolves come into this season with something to prove, that they can compete with the big boys and last a full season. With a one of the biggest cities in Florida behind them, talent is what will be the deciding factor. Stingrays’ ownerJay Lawrence, “We hope to make this into a great rivalry that will benefit both organizations for years to come.”
Saturday marked the first ever Cape Coral v. Fort Myers semi-pro regular season football game in Southwest Florida. The fans showed up to support both teams and they came with an excitement not seen in these parts, other than for pop warnerfootball games. The parking lot was full and parking spaces were limited to parking in the neighborhood streets. The excitement could be felt in the air and the cars driving past the field would occasionally stop just to see what all the fuss was about. No matter the outcome of the game, it was a success for the Wolves to finally host a league game in their part of town.
It was evident early on that the Stingrays came ready to play, and not only play but pounce on their cross-river rivals. Both teams met in a scrimmage game a month ago and it seemed the Stingrays knew exactly what to expect when it truly counted. The Stingrays made a statement very early in the game when #11 Lonnie Young ran the-off for a 90 yard touchdown. Just like that the Stingrays took the lead but they were far from over. By the time the first quarter ended, the score was 22-0. The Stingrays didn’t stop there, they continued their onslaught of the less talented Wolves and recorded touchdowns by Running back’s #5 James Grant, # 20 Charles Long, and #14 Vance “Big Man” St. Gourdin as well as a receiving TD by #14 St. Gourdin which eventually the half ended with the Stingrays up 50-0.
In the start of the second half, you could see that the Wolves seemed to be over-matched in every aspect of the game but they battled with the Stingrays in the third quarter and their defense put up on zero on the board for the Stingrays. The only true highlight for the Wolves came when they recovered a fumble deep in Stingrays territory and ran it back for a 90 yard touchdown. That made the score 50-6. The Stingrays would recover from their one quarter scoring funk and add on 27 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to finish off a 77-6 lopsided victory.
The Stingrays would score the most points in a single in the franchises two year history and the defense played as you would expect a Stingrays defense to play, stingy, quick and on their game. The Wolves could hardly muster any yardage and the Stingrays defense would record their first shutout of the young season. Stingrays OwnerJay Lawrence, “Our guys have been working really hard and we knew we were going up against a very young and inexperienced team.” Lawrence continues, “The Wolves came to play and played hard but our guys are focused on winning a championship this year and they came out wanting to make a statement and I think we accomplished our mission.”
Overall it was a successful night not only for the Stingrays but also for the United Football Federation and the Cape Wolves. It was very evident from the start to finish that the Wolves were heavily over-matched but they battled all night and didn’t quit on themselves and they finished out the game as all teams are expected to do. They are a young team and they have a lot of things to work on but the key to their first game is they showed up ready to play but just found themselves against a better more equipped and experienced Stingrays squad.
The Stingrays may have showcased their talent against a lesser talented opponent, but when teams are playing for a bigger picture, like a championship, it doesn’t matter who stands in their way, good teams just take care of business.
If this game is any indication of what the season can turn out to be, teams will have fits trying to contain this potent Stingrays offense and stingy defense. And the true test will be next Saturday night February 16th at Ruttenberg Park in Fort Myers when the Stingrays battle against defending League Champs the Broward County , who come off a bye week. Stingrays Head Chris Morant shared “We have to play to our full potential because are very large upfront and have a very aggressive defense.”
The game will determine just how good this revamped Stingrays team truly is and if they can find the right holes in the Cowboys’ defense. A big test early in the season, but one to build on.