Ironmen ready for regular season opener following Sunday’s exhibition success

By Steve Gunn

MUSKEGON – It would be tempting for the West Michigan Ironmen to bask in the glow of their impressive debut last Sunday at L.C. Walker Arena.LSJ Logo incert

The Ironmen, a first-year expansion team in the American Indoor Football league, delighted a big crowd by pounding the Atlanta Vultures 63-29.

Everything seemed to click for the Ironmen, despite the fact that fewer than half of the  players had indoor football experience.Ironmen logo featured

“That was definitely a good day,” said Ironmen Coach Ty Lynk. “The guys put everything together and showed it on the field. It was what I expected. They came focused and ready to play.”

But Lynk is very aware that Sunday’s game is over, and a new challenge looms this weekend.

The Ironmen will play their first regular season game Sunday afternoon against the River City Raiders in St. Charles, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis.

Kickoff is set for 3:05 p.m. CST and 4:05 p.m. Michigan time. will be at the game providing full coverage for area fans.

The Ironmen will apparently have their hands full. While they were ironing out their wrinkles in their exhibition game on Sunday, the Raiders were opening the regular season with a resounding 47-6  victory over the Northern Kentucky Nightmare.

Lynk is expecting his team to have a much bigger challenge than it had last weekend.

“At halftime of the Atlanta game we talked about keeping our feet on the ground,” Lynk said. “No disrespect to Atlanta, but River City is a whole different team. It will be much more of a challenge and our guys have to understand it’s a brand new game.

“Their defense is very similar to ours. They have two outstanding defensive ends, a very strong front three and great back end support.”

Lynk said the Ironmen will also have to adjust to playing without the adoring home crowd that greeted them last weekend.

“They have a unique environment over there,” he said. “I believe they give tickets away for free, so I have the feeling it’s going to be a hostile environment with 5,000 fans screaming and yelling. It will be a good opportunity to see what we’re made of as a team.”

Several Ironmen will try to build on their outstanding performances in the exhibition victory.

Quarterback Alex Carder completed 11 of 21 passes for 223 yards and seven touchdowns.

Donovan Campbell caught six passes for 98 yards and one touchdown, Corey Johnson scored three touchdowns on three catches covering 65 yards, and Justin Mott added two scores on two receptions for 70 yards.

Defensive end Ronnie Nelson also had a big day with five quarterback sacks.

After Sunday’s game, Lynk was under the impression that Nelson had played his first and last game for the Ironmen. He had been invited to camp with the Cleveland Gladiators of the American Football League, the elite circuit in pro indoor football.

But on Monday Lynk received the happy news that Nelson had decided to stay with the Ironmen.

“He loved the idea of being able to go to Cleveland, but this community and our team embraced him so much that he couldn’t leave us,” Lynk said. “I was already trying to get my mind set on preparing for River City without him, so it was a huge bonus to find out he was staying with us.”

Nelson, who played college football at Iowa State, is an indoor football veteran who brings a great deal to the team, according to Lynk.

“The moment we got on the field doing some drills, his leadership and talent stood out right away,” the coach said. “He was a standout (with previous teams), but I think we will be a better fit for him. We’re the first team keying on his skills. On other teams it was more of a case of him fitting into the system

“I think he’s going to have a big year if he stays healthy.”

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