Last weekend was homecoming at Hope College with a home football game against Olivet College. Fans came out on the chilly Saturday evening, cheering on the Flying Dutchmen as they beat Olivet with a score of 35-30. The game started strong with senior Mike Miklusicak scoring the first touchdown of the game in the first quarter. His effort was matched just a few minutes later by Olivet, who pulled ahead with another touchdown in the close of the first quarter. Junior quarterback Mason Opple wasted no time bringing Hope back to the lead, one which they would keep throughout the entire game despite Olivet’s efforts.
Opple scored on two separate one yard runs in the second quarter and threw a 24 yard pass to junior Cooper Cecchini in the third quarter. Opple made the final touchdown of the game for Hope in the fourth quarter on a 10 yard run. Olivet did fight back strong, scoring three touchdowns after the first quarter. Junior Nicholas Holt secured the game late in the fourth quarter, recovering an onside kick for Hope. Opple not only led the team in touchdowns but also set Hope’s record for yards run by a quarterback at 244 yards, topping the 209 yard record held by Joe Schwander against Alma College in 2005.
His performance is currently the fourth best in Division III quarterbacks for the season. “You don’t really feel it. You’re just out there in the flow of the game.” Opple commented. “You just want to get yards, get first downs, keep moving the chains. We didn’t move it when we had to at the end when we had a chance to seal it, but managed to get it done.” Head coach Peter Stuursma commented on Opple’s drive. “He wants the ball in his hands when it counts, when it matters. I kept saying, ‘Keep putting the ball in his hands.’ He kept his composure. He kept us in the game. He kept us in the hunt and just gave us a chance to win.”
The weekend before homecoming, Hope’s football team played Finlandia University, winning with an impressive score of 70-6. The home game was played in honor of the 1953 MIAA champion football team, Hope’s first MIAA conference championship. It ranks as the second highest scoring game in Hope’s football history. The homecoming win against Olivet keeps Hope just one game out of first place in the MIAA standings. As play continues, Hope looks to improve on their 3-1 MIAA record, upping them to 5-2 over season play. Opple also contributed his success in the game to Hope’s team as a whole. “I think it goes without saying what our offensive line has been able to do.
The last three years, they’ve been able to manhandle the line of scrimmage. When you get to that next level, we got our receivers out there and they want to block. They pride in blocking those guys down the field. That’s how you break those big ones.” The team held a season high of 383 rushing yards throughout the game. With a spirit of teamwork and competitive drive to win, the Flying Dutchmen look to continue their three win streak through the last three games of the season. They play on Saturday at Alma College.