By Justin Haggerty

MUSKEGON – The Muskegon Ironmen had revenge on their minds on Saturday night.

They opened the season in their new league – Champions Indoor Football – with an ugly 44-point loss to the Bloomington Edge on March 3. Two more losses followed, leaving the Ironmen with a dismal 0-3 record.

But they broke through with a victory on the road last weekend, then welcomed Bloomington to town on Saturday for a rematch of the season opener.

This time the result was very different, with West Michigan capturing a convincing 56-34 win at L. C. Walker Arena. It was the Ironmen’s first win in three tries at home in their new league, and kept them in the race for a postseason playoff berth.

The Ironmen, now 2-3, are in fourth place in the CIF Northern Division, a half-game behind the third-place Omaha Beef. The top three teams in the division make the playoffs.

West Michigan, which has seven games left in the regular season, returns to action next Saturday on the road against Omaha.

Malcom Howard on the Ironmen kickoff return. Photo/Leo Valdez

“The win is important for a couple reasons,” said ironmen head coach Ty Lynk. “It puts us right back in the (playoff) race and it’s always nice to get that monkey off your wrench.

“We (won) when we were away last week, now we got one at home, and now I think we can just roll into the rest of the season season and play a little more relaxed.”

The game was tied 14-14 midway through the second quarter, then the Ironmen built a 27-14 halftime lead with a 14-yard touchdown run by Dontae Ingraham and a one-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Alex Carder to Corey Johnson.

West Michigan took control of the contest by scoring 22 points in the third quarter.

Justin Mott led things off after halftime for the Ironmen by catching a 16-yard scoring pass from Carder, putting the Ironmen up 35-14.

Erik Thompson and No. 24 Deonte Hurst celebrate an Ironmen touchdown. Photo/Leo Valdez

Korey Ringer added a five-yard touchdown run with about five minutes left in the third quarter, giving West Michigan a 42-21 lead. Ingraham broke loose for a 47-yard touchdown on a kickoff return with 26 seconds left in the third, making the score 49-28.

The teams traded single touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and the Ironmen had their second victory in a row.

“We didn’t really make a lot of adjustments,” Lynk said about his team’s offensive explosion after halftime. “We just talked to the guys to make them understand that this game is so fast, and a 13-point lead can evaporate in 35 seconds.

“We had a motto going into the game about working hard and collecting change…the guys know what that means. They went out and did that. They just kind of put their heads down and fought for themselves.”

Lynk said the Ironmen are playing with more confidence as they adjust to the new league, and expects the players to keep improving.

Korey Ringer jumps into the end zone for an Ironmen score. Photo/Leo Valdez

“If you look at us, we’ve gotten a lot better each week and it’s starting to blend each week,” the coach said. “When we went down there (in Game 1), we were kind of a deer in the headlights, and when things started to go wrong, we didn’t know how to react.

“Now I think we’ve learned this game, and our guys are starting to play with some confidence. We’ve made some adjustments, but a lot of it was between the ears.”

Carder completed 5 of 7 passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns. Johnson had six catches for 91 yards and one touchdown.

Ringer had 13 carries for 89 yards and two touchdowns.

Aaron Doriot led the Ironmen defense with six tackles, Luther Robinson had five and Rony Nelson recorded 1 1/2 sacks.

Scoring Summary

1st Quarter

WM 11:55 – Alex Carder 1-yd run (Jose Diaz kick) WM-7, BLM-0

BLM 1:55 – JJ Hayes 2-yd catch from Caleb Holbrook (Cody Barber kick) WM-7, BLM-7

2nd Quarter

BLM 10:21 – Hayes 21-yd catch from Holbrook (Barber kick) BLM-14, WM-7

WM 8:41 – Justin Mott 10-yd catch from Carder (Diaz kick) WM-14, BLM-14

WM 3:01 – Dontae Ingraham 14-yd run (kick failed) WM-20, BLM-14

WM 1:36 – Corey Johnson 1-yd catch from Carder (Diaz kick) WM-27, BLM- 14

3rd Quarter

WM 9:17 – Mott 16-yd catch from Carder (2-pt Conversion) WM-35, BLM-14

BLM 8:10 – Marcus Lewis 2-yd catch from Holbrook (Barber kick) WM-35, BLM-21

WM 5:11 – Korey Ringer 5-yd run (Diaz kick) WM-42, BLM-21

BLM :45 – Lewis 2-yd catch from Holbrook (Barber kick) WM-42, BLM-28

WM :26 – Ingraham 47-yd kickoff return (Diaz kick) WM-49, BLM-28

4th Quarter

WM 5:26 – Ringer 2-yd run (Diaz kick) WM-56, BLM-28

BLM :56 – Lewis 2-yd catch from Holbrook (kick failed) WM-56, BLM-34