Football begins conference play with big victory


STARTING OFF ON THE RIGHT FOOT — The Flying Dutchmen have every reason to celebrate as they begin conference play with a dominant 42-20 victory over the reigning champs. (Hope College)

The Flying Dutchmen began their conference play this season on Saturday with a match at Olivet in celebration of the school’s homecoming. Unfortunately for the Comets, an efficient Dutchmen offense partnered with a staunch defense remembered the bitter taste of last year’s defeat and came ready to play.

Everything seemed to be going Hope’s way this weekend as the team was given a stream of unexpected opportunities. The first of these came in the first quarter when Hope forced a three-and-out and the Olivet long snapper sent the ball over his punter’s head to give us the ball on the 10-yard line. Next, a pooch kick from Darren Ford (’18) gave Hope the ball, who scored on the very next play via a 38-yard touchdown connection between Mason Opple (’20) and Chris Leigh (’18).

On paper, Saturday’s game looked like a nail-biter: Hope had just three more first downs than Olivet and ran just one less offensive play. The difference came in the Dutchmen rushing game led by none other than Senior running back Brandan Campbell (’18) who ran for an eye-popping 140 yards on just 21 carries. With an average of 6.7 yards per carry, you could see the fear in the Comet defense each time #38 touched the ball. He even added a breakout run of 44-yards to solidify his dominance. A round of applause to the men in the trenches as the Hope offensive line maintained its prestige allowing only one sack on the afternoon and provided Ford enough space to hit six-out-of-six extra points.

As a whole, Hope’s offense looked sound, to say the least, with Sophomore quarterback Opple proving that Campbell is not the only one that can move the ball, passing for 205 yards himself. Opple favored Senior Kurtis Slenk with six targets but Leigh led the team this weekend with 94 total yards on just three catches. Not only was their production exceptional, but it was extremely clean. Hope did not have a single turnover during their 28 minutes of possession. Behind this performance, the Dutchmen made it clear early on what the outcome of the game would be – going into halftime up 35-0. With a passing game that seems to be taking shape and a rushing game that has continued to define this team, they have a reason to be excited for their remaining six games.

Coming off of last week’s bye week, the Hope defense came prepared to stand their ground right out of the gate, shutting out Olivet in the first half. The team let up only 56 rushing yards on 36 attempts. Not only was their rush defense sound, their pass defense played their part by applying steady pressure on Olivet’s Lane Porter (’19). This pass rush was led by Junior defensive end Tate Knapp (’19) who added two solo sacks to increase his season total to four sacks. Cornerback Mason Rosado (’18) led by example in this week’s game by recording a team-leading 10 total tackles, five solo and five in which he assisted. Senior linebacker Mason Dekker (’18) recorded an impressive 6 solo tackles for the afternoon to lead a linebacker core that has continued to excel against opponent offenses.

Hope’s special teams were also playing at a higher level. Along with the previously mentioned pooch kick and recovered fumble, Ford was perfect on the day for kicking while Alex VanVleet (’18) continued to be a menace to opposing kickoff teams with two returns for a total of 44-yards.

The Flying Dutchmen are looking forward to bringing the competition home this week when they play against Alma for Youth Day and for their annual poster giveaway. The offense also hopes to help Campbell become the ninth 2,000-yard career rusher in program history.

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