By Dave Hart
That’s when the Ironmen let an early 21-point lead go to waste, and ended up losing their regular season opener to the River City Raiders.
Saturday’s rematch at L.C. Walker Arena seemed to be following the same script, at least for a while.
The Ironmen led 28-7 after one quarter and 55-28 at halftime, before the Raiders fought back to within 13 points in the fourth quarter.
But this time West Michigan responded positively, scoring a pair of touchdowns in the last four minutes on touchdown passes from Alex Carder to Corey Johnson to seal a 69-49 victory at L.C Walker Arena over the previously undefeated Raiders.
The Ironmen and River City are now both 3-1 and tied for the lead in the AIF Mid-Western Division.
“The guys came today really focused and I’m really proud of them,” said Ironmen Coach Ty Lynk, who added that he reminded his team about the previous loss to River City in practice all week. “I told them (River City) is a great football team that wouldn’t quit. I think our team showed tonight that it’s just a little bit better.”
Wide receiver Johnson was the offensive flashpoint for the Ironmen the entire game, catching seven passes for 109 yards and five touchdowns. He had three touchdowns in the first half and two down the stretch to help seal the win.
“Everything was just clicking,” said Johnson, a graduate of Muskegon High School. “I felt I had to redeem myself after not scoring the last couple of games. We had a lot of good protection (from offensive linemen).”
Lynk said Johnson’s brother, former Muskegon and University of Southern California star Ronald Johnson, draws a lot of extra defensive coverage, leaving his younger brother and other receivers open to make big catches.
“A lot of teams make their game plans around Ronald Johnson, but when they shut him down, we have so many other weapons, and Corey was a weapon today. Ronald Johnson is sort of a weapon without even catching the ball.”
West Michigan’s Donovan Campbell added six catches for 100 yards and two scores while quarterback Carder threw for 210 yards and six touchdowns on 14 for-20 passing.
Defensive back Erik Thompson scored two touchdowns – one on a 44-yard kick return and the other on a 22-yard interception pick-six.
The Ironmen almost allowed their 27-point halftime lead slip away from them.
River City scored the lone touchdown of the third quarter on a 29-yard scoring pass from quarterback Tarean Austin to DeAndre Jackson to cut its deficit to 55-34 with 7:08 left.
The Raiders cut their deficit to 55-41 with 12:22 left in the fourth quarter on a one-yard touchdown run by Austin.
But the Ironmen defense came to the rescue. River City had the ball on its own 20-yard line with 5:30 left in the game and all the momentum.
But several Ironmen defenders swarmed Austin in the backfield, forcing the quarterback to fumble. West Michigan’s Rony Nelson recovered, giving the Ironmen possession.
Then came the fourth touchdown pass from Carder to Corey Johnson – this time covering 17 yards – to increase the Ironmen lead to 62-41 with 3:42 remaining.
River City added another touchdown from Jackson with 54 seconds left. A two-point conversion cut the Raiders’ deficit to 13 points.
But the Ironmen recovered an onside kick and added a 10-yard touchdown throw from Carder to Corey Johnson to seal the win.
WM 13:39- Corey Johnson 28 yard catch from Alex Carder (Jamie Potts kick) WM-7 RC-0
WM 8:30- Alex Carder 1 yard run (Jamie Potts kick) WM-14 RC-0
RC 4:38- DeAndre Jackson 8 yard catch from Tarean Austin (Corey Adamson kick)
WM 2:38- Donovan Campbell 10 yard catch from Alex Carder (Jamie Potts kick) WM-21 RC-7 WM 45.7- Donovan Campbell 40 yard catch from Alex Carder (Jamie Potts kick)
RC 13:26-DeAndre Jackson 35 yard catch from Tarean Austin (Corey Adamson kick) WM-28 RC-14 WM 8:26- Corey Johnson 12 yard catch from Alex Carder (kick failed) WM-34 RC-14 RC 6:59- Tyler Batts 35 yard run (Corey Adamson kick) WM-34 RC-21
WM 56.2- Corey Johnson 16 yard catch from Alex Carder (kick failed) WM-40 RC-21
RC 32.3- DeAndre Jackson 18 yard catch from Tarean Austin (Corey Adamson kick)
WM 24.2- Erik Thompson 44 yard kick return (2-pt good Campbell from Carder)
WM :04.5- Erik Thompson 20 yard interception return (Jamie Potts kick) WM-55 RC-28
RC 7:08- DeAndre Jackson 29 yard catch from Tarean Austin (kick failed) WM-55 RC-34
RC 12:22- Tarean Austin 1 yard run (Corey Adamson kick) WM-55 RC-41
WM 3:42- Corey Johnson 17 yard catch from Alex Carder (Jamie Potts kick) WM-62 RC-41 RC 54.4- DeAndre Jackson 9 yard catch from Tarean Austin (2-pt good) WM-62 RC-49 WM :36.7- Corey Johnson 10 yard catch from Alex Carder (Jamie Potts kick) WM-69 RC-49