Football Uses Special Teams To Set Up Victory In First Game Vs. Finlandia

Hope's Korey Derr fends off a Finlandia tackler by Greg Chandler

The Hope College football team took advantage of numerous special teams breakdowns by a young Finlandia University squad on Saturday.

The Flying Dutchmen went on to win 70-6 at Ray & Sue Smith Stadium in their highest-scoring Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association game.

Hope, now 2-1 in the MIAA and 4-2 overall, blocked two punts in the first three minutes to set up short scoring drives. The Flying Dutchmen also recovered a lateral in the end zone for another touchdown as they raced to a 21-0 lead seven minutes into the game.

Head coach Peter Stuursma said his players set themselves up for success with how they approached the week leading up to Hope's first meeting with Finlandia.

"I'm really proud of our players for how they practiced and prepared. We knew Finlandia was struggling a little bit. They're a new program," Stuursma said. "We focused on ourselves and what we could do to get better. It showed up early when we jumped out on them."

Photo of Korey Derr by Lynne Powe

Junior wide receiver Christian Bos of Hudsonville, Michigan (Unity Christian HS) opened the scoring with a 6-yard run on a jet sweep.

Just 22 seconds later, junior linebacker Kevin Hazen of Troy, Michigan (Athens HS), fell on a lateral pass by the Lions in the end zone for a touchdown.

After the second blocked punt, senior running back Mike Miklusicak of Wayland, Michigan (Wayland Union HS) scored on a 12-yard run.

Then, junior quarterback Mason Opple of Hudsonville, Michigan (Hudsonville HS) hooked up with junior wide receiver Cooper Cecchini of Hudsonville, Michigan (Hudsonville HS) on a 43-yard catch and run connection for a touchdown. Hope led 28-0 after the first quarter.

Hope added three more scores in the second quarter. A fumbled snap on another Finlandia punt led to another short scoring drive, with senior Josh Smith of Southfield, Michigan (Birmingham Seaholm HS) smashing into the end zone from two yards out.

Hope then got two short rushing touchdowns from freshman running back Kenyea Houston of Chicago, Illinois (George Westinghouse Prep HS), covering two and four yards, and the Flying Dutchmen went in at halftime with a 49-0 lead.

The Flying Dutchmen opened the second half with another score, as junior wide receiver Korey Derr of Grand Rapids, Michigan (Northview HS) returned the kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown.

After Finlandia (0-6, 0-3 MIAA) got on the board on a Justin Woolever 12-yard touchdown run, the Flying Dutchmen tacked on two more touchdowns – a 7-yard run by freshman Brandon Anderson of Cassopolis, Michigan (Ross Beatty HS) on his first collegiate carry, and a 62-yard punt return by junior defensive back David Bos of Hudsonville, Michigan (Unity Christian HS).

With Hope seizing control of the game early, Stuursma was able to get every one of his players who suited up into the contest. Thirteen different players had at least one carry for Hope, and 33 players recorded at least one tackle on defense.

Hope finished with 326 yards total offense, including 247 rushing yards on 43 attempts, while limiting Finlandia to 152 yards total offense (78 rushing, 74 passing).

Houston led the ground game with 77 yards on eight carries, while Miklusicak added 41 yards on five attempts. Opple threw only three passes before leaving the game in the second quarter, but completed all three for 65 yards.

Defensively, freshman linebacker Jacob Hoekstra of Hudsonville, Michigan (Hudsonville HS) recorded a team-high eight tackles.

Hope forced four Finlandia turnovers, including fumble recoveries by Hazen, junior linebacker Joe Romano of Royal Oak, Michigan (Shrine Catholic HS) and senior defensive lineman Luke Stehney of Royal Oak, Michigan (Birmingham Brother Rice HS).

Senior defensive back Kyle Krumm of Okemos, Michigan (Okemos HS) picked off his third interception of the season, returning it 40 yards to set up a Hope touchdown. Senior H-back Logan Shadaia of Oakland, Michigan (Lake Orion HS) recorded his second blocked punt of the season.

The Flying Dutchmen's 70 points matched the second-highest total in team history. The record of 71 came in 1919 against Ferris State. The previous high in a MIAA game was 62 against Alma College in 1999.

Hope returns to action Saturday, October 20, for homecoming against Olivet College. Kickoff at Ray and Sue Smith Stadium is 5 p.m.

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