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West Michigan Ironmen edged by West Virginia for first loss in two seasons

MUSKEGON – The West Michigan Ironmen knew it would be some tough sledding when the West Virginia Roughriders came to town.

In a matchup of early-season, American Arena League football unbeatens, the Ironmen made a couple more miscues than the Roughriders in a 33-28 loss Friday night at L.C. Walker Arena.

“I was really pleased with our effort, really pleased with what we saw. We knew they were going to be a great team, we knew they were going to push us, we knew we were going to be challenged. That was everything we expected,” said Ironmen coach Nate Smith, whose squad is now 2-1. Meanwhile, West Virginia improves to 4-0.

“I think it’s a different game if we don’t make mistakes. I mean, I know it’s cliché, but we made more mistakes than they did. I honestly believe we’re a better team, and we’re going to get back to the drawing board and fix what we need to fix.”

WMU influence strong with West Michigan Ironmen indoor football team

WR Carrington Thompson Sr. forms tough duo with QB Alex Carder, remains close with former Broncos star Corey Davis.

In a tight game from start to finish, West Michigan took a 28-27 lead with about 10 minutes remaining when Carrington Thompson Sr. hauled in Alex Carder’s pass along the right sideline and dove into the end zone on a 28-yard scoring play. Carder’s extra-point kick put the Ironmen up one.

A couple minutes later, the Ironmen’s Jeremiah Mullinax appeared to make a game-changing play when he stripped the football from Roughriders quarterback Jarrett Brown deep in West Virginia territory, but the play was overturned on a controversial West Michigan penalty.

The Roughriders proceeded to drive the field and scored the eventual winning TD, when Brown hit Connor Arlia with 3:13 left.

West Michigan was in position to pull out the victory, driving to the West Virginia 5 in the final minute, but Carder’s pass in the end zone was picked off by Cole Smelley. The Roughriders were able to run out the clock and preserve the win.

“Theoretically, it’s probably too early, but we’re wise enough to say, if we play well (the rest of the way), they play well (the rest of the way), we’re going to meet in the playoffs,” Smith said about the likelihood of the Ironmen and Roughriders meeting down the road. “Potentially we’d have to end up going there, which is fine. We can play with them, we know we can play with them. We eliminate our own mistakes, and I think we’re a totally different team.”

Carder connected with Daryl Gooden and Thompson on TD passes to give the Ironmen a 14-7 lead through one quarter. West Michigan’s Dakota Smith scored on a short TD run in the second quarter, but the Ironmen trailed 27-21 at halftime.

Entering Friday’s contest, the Ironmen had outscored their previous two opponents by a combined 163-6 margin. Last season, the Ironmen went undefeated en route to a Midwest Professional Indoor Football league championship.

The Ironmen hit the road for the first time this season in the next couple weeks, then they’ll return home for their final two regular-season games: May 18 vs. the Louisville Xtreme and June 1 vs. the Indianapolis Enforcers. Louisville replaced the Chicago Aztecs on the schedule, as the Aztecs folded.

Nate Smith feels good about the progress of his team at this point.

“I honestly think we surprised them,” he said about the talented Roughriders, whose roster features several former big-time college players, including Noel Devine, the electric ex-West Virginia Mountaineers star. “I don’t think they gave us much respect coming in, and I’m not saying they needed to – we hadn’t played anybody – but I think we earned something tonight. It still hurts like crazy, but I think we learned some stuff about ourselves tonight.”
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