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By Dana Barker
The Ironmen lost 74-32 to a very good Columbus Lions squad to finish their season 9-2.
The game ended a few minutes early when the Ironmen chose to leave the field following a scuffle involving the actions of a fan.
It began when Ironmen quarterback Alex Carder threw his fourth interception of the game to Columbus defensive back Chris Smith late in the fourth quarter.
Smith jumped out of bounds into the stands during the return, and an Ironmen defender drove him further into the stands, where a fan in the stands attempted to throw a punch at the West Michigan player. That fan was identified by an on-field official and escorted out of the building by law enforcement.
The West Michigan bench partially emptied of players, and Lions players began to enter the field as well. Law enforcement and security joined officials on the field to attempt to bring order. Other verbal altercations ensued between West Michigan players and Lions players and between Ironmen players and fans.
With multiple players ejected, the Ironmen elected not to continue the game with 4:08 remaining, symbolically throwing a towel onto the field in disgust.
Still shocked and stunned at the events, the Lions gathered around the south end zone and were presented the AIF championship trophy by league commissioner John Morris.
“I pride our team on character,” Ironmen coach Ty Lynk said. “I think they did the best they could in a very hostile environment. We lost the game on the field, and I give respect to how Columbus handled that.
“I’m really disappointed in some of the antics off the field, because Columbus is good enough to where they don’t need their crowd to do that. It took a while to do what they finally wanted, and that was get to our players and myself, so kudos to them for that part of it. I’m really disappointed in some of the things that took place.”
The Ironmen actually cracked the scoreboard first, picking off a pass from Columbus quarterback Casey Kacz and scoring on the ensuing possession, when quarterback Alex Carder scored on a one-yard QB keeper, giving West Michigan a 6-0 lead.
“We wanted to start fast, play aggressive and we did that,” Lynk said. “Our defense came out right away and got an interception, and we came down and scored. There were some things we needed to do better, but we just didn’t execute our plan.”
Carder, who played in the same league as the Lions last season with the PIFL’s Nashville Venom, finished the night 16 of 30 passing for three touchdowns, but four costly interceptions.
“Alex is a special player,” Lynk said. “He did a great job tonight. We had a few scenarios where he had some throws he had to throw, and they didn’t turn out the right way for us. I’d go back with him any
The Ironmen’s did not last long, because their turnovers allowed Columbus to build a 23-6 lead after the first quarter and a 45-26 lead at halftime.
“We made some uncharacteristic mistakes, from our blocking schemes to a throw Alex usually wouldn’t make,” Lynk said. “We were playing from so far behind in the second half, we had to try and make some things happen, so that’s why we had some of the turnovers.”
Despite many pundits in the AIF noting that the Ironmen were playing only their second game away from L.C. Walker Arena, Lynk is confident that was not the reason for the loss
“Everyone is going to say it was home field advantage and everything,” said Lynk, whose team lost both of its road games this season. “I think what did take place – and I’m not shy to say this – I think their fans were classless, and that was the only advantage they had.”
The Ironmen now return home with the Northern Conference championship trophy, a chance to reflect, and an opportunity to reload for 2017.
“We’re going to get back at it, look at some areas of improvement we need to make,” Lynk said. “We need to sign the players back that we want, and we need to look and see if we’re in the right spot as far as a league goes.”
West Michigan 6 20 6 0 – 32
Columbus 23 22 16 13 – 74
W – Alex Carder 1 run (kick failed), 11:08.
C – Darren Daniel 3 run (Trey Crum kick), 9:13.
C – Crum deuce, 9:13.
C – Jarmon Fortson 2 pass from Casey Kacz (Crum kick), 3:54.
C – Michael Reeve 10 pass from Kacz (Crum kick), 0:20.
W – Donovan Campbell 9 pass from Carder (kick failed), 14:19.
W – Jamie Potts deuce, 14:19.
C – Reeve 13 pass from Kacz (Crum kick), 9:57.
C – Crum deuce, 9:57.
W – Campbell 32 pass from Carder (pass failed), 5:46.
C – Brandon Thomas 9 pass from Kacz (kick failed), 1:43.
W – Corey Ringer 8 run (pass failed), 0:35.
C – Kacz 9 run (Crum kick), 0:12.
C – Crum deuce, 15:00.
C – Fortson 3 pass from Kacz (Crum kick), 5:32.
C – John Harris 42 pass from Kacz (Crum kick), 3:28.
W – Campbell 8 pass from Carder (kick failed), 0:20.
C – Fortson 4 pass from Kacz (kick failed), 12:59.
C – Harris 9 pass from Kacz (Crum kick), 7:09.
Records: Columbus 11-0, West Michigan 9-2.