From the first play on defense to the last buzzer of the game, the West Michigan Ironmen dominated the visiting Central Illinois Royals on Saturday night.
While the Ironmen walked away with a more than convincing, 68-21 win at Mercy Health Arena, the fans stayed and took in every minute of the win.
“That was the biggest story of the game,” remarked West Michigan Coach Nate Smith about the fans and atmosphere during the win. “The game was out of control but the fans didn’t leave. The guys feed off of that, and I don’t know the last time the wave was going on in the arena here.”
The Ironmen thoroughly took care of Central Illinois, amassing 270 total yards of offense against the Royals’ 73. Quarterbacks Alex Carder and Tyler Fehler combined for six touchdown passes in the win.
The fans didn’t have to let up in their excitement either as the Ironmen defense stopped the Royals’ first seven drives.
“It’s great, all the people that come out here to see us work,” said Louisiana native and the Ironmen’s biggest man on the field, offensive lineman Dyron White. “This is my sixth year here and every time I come back, that crowd embraces us. It’s electric.”
West Michigan wasted no time to take advantage of the visitors.
Derek Vandenbosch plucked the ball out of the hands of the Royals’ backfield on the first defensive play of the game and scored the Ironmen’s opening touchdown, just 13 seconds in for a 7-0 lead.
West Michigan took a 13-0 lead on an 18-yard TD reception by Sterling Alexander from quarterback Alex Carder.
The second quarter was more West Michigan as Mike Wynn connected on a 43-yard scoring pass from Carder.
The Ironmen closed the clamps on the Royals’ on the ensuing kickoff, as Nick DeKraker and Joshua Holley trapped the returner in the end zone for a safety and a 21-0 lead.
Keyondre Banks-Craig tallied a 25-yard catch on the next drive for West Michigan. Carder capped the drive off with a 1-yard rush into the end zone for a 28-0 lead.
West Michigan continued to pile on points as Jamal Abbey capped off the first half with a 26-yard interception return into the end zone for a 35-0 halftime lead.
“It doesn’t matter who our opponent is, we just play Ironmen football and stay locked down,” said White about how he and his teammates keep up their intensity when they get a big lead.
The Ironmen started the second half similar to the beginning of the game. This time on offense and on the second play of the third quarter. Mason Partlow ran in for a 31-yard touchdown on a pass from Fehler.
As the lead built up, West Michigan did let in some sloppy play. That was reflected in their 11 penalties on the night.
“We have to stay locked into what you’re trying to do and you don’t want to get into bad habits,” said Smith about his team’s discipline as the game went on.
West Michigan held a 55-7 lead by the end of the third quarter, but the fans remained in their seats and continued to take in the win, sending a wave around the arena multiple times.
“We have had every kind of opportunity here and have seen all sorts of things in these seven years,” said Smith. “But the constant has been people want to see football here.”
The Ironmen were led in many areas but spread the wealth amongst their players.
Partlow led West Michigan’s receivers with a pair of touchdown catches while Dak Smith and Patrick Lefere each had TD catches of their own.
Carder was 4 of 5 passing for 81 yards, had a pair of touchdown passes, gave up one interception and ran in for a score. Fehler finished 6 of 7 passing for 149 yards and four touchdown passes.
Fehler capped the night off with a 7-yard touchdown run with 90 seconds remaining, in front of a still packed house.