By Kam Willer
With a solid crowd in tote, the Ironmen faced off against the Charlotte Thunder in a game where both teams were coming off undefeated seasons.
The Ironmen started their 2022 season off right with a thrilling, 55-51 win over the Thunder that went right down to the last wire.
In a back and forth game, West Michigan proved relentless with a quick striking offense led by quarterback Alex Carder and wide-receiver Sterling Alexander.
Carder and Alexander connected on four touchdowns for West Michigan, including the game-winning tally in the final minutes. Carder finished with seven TD passes and also ran in for a score.
The Ironmen jumped ahead early with a 13-0 lead in the first quarter. Mike Wynn hauled in a 6-yard TD catch and Sterling Alexander completed a 39-yard strike on passes from Carder.
Derek Vandenbosch set up the Alexander score with a fumble recovery after the Thunder coughed up the ball
Charlotte responded with a pair of scores to take a 14-13 lead. Jalen McClendon and Jamal Tillman found the endzone for the Thunder.
But Carder and Alexander continued to score at will, this time with an 18-yard touchdown pass and a 20-14 second-quarter lead.
The Thunder looked like they were going to close the half with a lead after a touchdown pass to Daniel Bender for a 21-20 lead.
West Michigan responded with seven seconds left in the half on a 4-yard TD catch from Keyondre Banks-Craig.
With a slim, 28-21 lead to start the second half, the Ironmen needed to come up with a big defensive stop. They found that stop on Charlotte’s first drive, forcing a turnover on downs.
West Michigan capitalized on the key stand with a 4-yard TD catch by John Ross and a 35-21 lead.
But the Thunder struck quickly after falling behind by two touchdowns and trailed 35-28.
West Michigan’s offense continued soar, this time with Carder on the ground for a 4-yard samper. Charlotte was able to block the PAT and returned it for two points and a 41-30 score.
Charlotte capped off its following drive with a 34-yard catch by Bender and secured the 2-point conversion for a 41-38 deficit.
The Ironmen felt their backs against the wall in the fourth quarter as the Thunder converted a West Michigan interception into a 45-41 lead with three minutes left in the game.
Carder and Alexander continued to be too much as the duo connected on a 30 yard TD and a 4-yard score for a 55-45 lead.
The Thunder still had fight left in them as they found the end zone with 43 seconds left on the clock and slimming the Ironmen’s lead to, 55-51.
The Ironmen were able to run out the clock to gain their first win of the season.
Check out photos from the night, shot by Jason Goorman.