By Steve Gunn and Dave Hart

MUSKEGON – In pass-happy arena football, it’s essential for a team to have a calm quarterback with a strong, accurate arm.

Luckily that’s never been a concern for the West Michigan Ironmen.

Erik Thompson rushes up the turf for the Ironmen. Photo/Leo Valdez

Since they first took the field four years ago, Alex Carder has been the guy calling the signals for the Ironmen, and he’s put a lot of points on the board in a lot of big wins along the way.

But Carder may have had the most prolific game of his Ironmen career on Saturday. The veteran QB put on a show, throwing for six touchdowns, running for three, catching a touchdown pass, and kicking four extra points.

By the time it was all over, Carder had a direct hand in all but two of the Ironmen’s points in their convincing 68-6 victory over the Indianapolis Enforcers at L.C. Walker Arena.

The game was West Michigan’s first in its new league, the American Arena League. They will return to action on April 13 on the road against the Chicago Aztecs. They are now 2-0 overall on the season, with a non-league victory over the Illinois Renegades in their season opener three weeks ago.

Carder made scoring look easy throughout the contest. In the first quarter he threw touchdown passes of 20 and 15 yards to Carrington Thompson and ran for a 13-yard score, and West Michigan took a quick 20-0 lead.

In the second quarter he had a three-yard touchdown run, a 12-yard scoring pass to Corey Johnson and a 30-yard TD pass to Daryl Gooden. The Ironmen led 42-6 at halftime.

In the third quarter Carder threw a three-yard TD pass to Johnson, then was on the receiving end of an eight-yard scoring pass from running back Dakota Smith.

West Michigan’s No. 44 Nick Dekracker looks back towards the ball as does Alje Buiter.

Carder finished off his prolific night in the fourth with a three-yard touchdown run and a 26-yard scoring strike to Gooden.

Overall he completed 11 of 16 passes for 143 yards.

“It was a good time and they were a formidable opponent,” Carder said. “That was a great stepping stone toward what is to come for us. We will continue to ramp it up.”

Ironmen Coach Nate Smith has been watching Carder for years, and knows how valuable it is to have an experienced and confident signal-caller.

“He’s been with us since year one,” Smith said.  “He’s a leader who knows our offense, and he ends up being like another coach on the field. He’s efficient and he does whatever we ask him to do.”

The Ironmen defense was also outstanding in the victory. The unit only gave up one touchdown to Indianapolis, which came midway through the second quarter on a one-yard run by Ryan Buchanan. Those were the first points West Michigan surrendered this season, through just over 80 minutes of football.

The defense terrorized the Indy offense with five interceptions and five sacks. B.J. Foy had two interceptions while Derek VandenBosch, Erik Thompson and Zach Watts each had one.

Nick Dekraker had four tackles and 1 1/2 sacks. VandenBosch and Foy each had 3 1/2 tackles and Jeremiah Mullinax had three tackles and two sacks.

“The guys will claim that wasn’t a touchdown,” Smith said with a smile about the lone Indianapolis touchdown, which came when Buchanan appeared to stick the ball over the goal line as he was tackled short of the end zone. “We get great pressure and push up front (on defense), which really helps us out.”

The Ironmen have now had two very easy victories in a row. They started the season with a 95-0 drubbing of Illinois, so in two games they have outscored their opponents 163-6.

But Smith says there are more challenging games coming up, particularly against a good West Virginia squad at home on April 19, and he’s glad his team is getting the chance to perfect its attack in the early part of the season.

“I am really pleased with our effort,” the coach said. “Indianapolis is a new team with a great coaching staff that is going to be great team down the road, but we have to focus on us. We know we are going to have to overcome some adversity if we are going to make a championship run.”


First quarter
WM 13:45- Carrington Thompson Sr. 20-yard catch from Alex Carder (kick failed)  WM-6 Ind-0
WM 7:13- Carrington Thompson Sr. 15-yard catch from Alex Carder (kick good)  WM-13 Ind-0
WM 1:24- Alex Carder 13-yard run (kick good) WM-20 Ind-0


Second quarter
WM 13:05- Alex Carder 3-yard run (kick good) WM-27 Ind-0
IND 9:11- Ryan Buchanan 1-yard run (2-pt failed) WM-27 Ind-6
WM 5:23- Corey Johnson 12-yard catch from Alex Carder (kick good) WM-34 Ind-6
WM 2:04- Daryl Gooden 30-yard catch from Alex Carder (2-pt failed) WM-40 Ind-6
WM :05- Team Safety (Zach Watts) WM-42 Ind-6


Third quarter
WM 10:22– Corey Johnson 3-yard catch from Alex Carder (kick good) WM-49 Ind-6
WM 5:59 – Alex Carder 8-yard catch from Dakota Smith (kick good) WM-56 Ind-6


Fourth quarter
WM 6:28– Alex Carder 3-yard run (2-pt failed) WM-62 Ind-6
WM 1:15– Daryl Gooden 26-yard catch from Alex Carder (kick failed) WM-68 Ind-6