by Greg Chandler
The Hope College football team rode the leadership of its seniors to its fifth straight victory on Saturday as the Flying Dutchmen defeated Kalamazoo College, 33-7, at Ray & Sue Smith Stadium in the annual battle for the Wooden Shoes.
The Flying Dutchmen, now 5-1 in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association and 7-2 overall, kept their hopes alive for a share of the conference championship with a Senior Day victory in the regular-season home finale.
"It's very special," head coach Peter Stuursma said. "I'm just so proud of the guys. We recognized 17 seniors right after the game in front of our home crowd. What they've gone through with this (coaching transition three years ago), what they've given to us on and off the field, I'm happy for them because they are such good people and they played their tails off today."
Hope will conclude its season this Saturday at Adrian College with a 1 p.m. contest. A Flying Dutchmen victory, combined with a Kalamazoo upset of unbeaten Trine University, would give Hope a share of its first MIAA championship since 2007.
Trine clinched a title share and the NCAA Division III playoff berth with a 42-27 win against Adrian College on Saturday.
Hope, after spotting the visiting Hornets (4-2 MIAA, 7-2 overall) an early 7-0 lead, used a methodical attack to wear down a Kalamazoo defense that had come into the game leading the MIAA in fewest yards and points allowed.
The Flying Dutchmen tied the score on the first play of the second quarter, as junior quarterback Mason Opple of Hudsonville, Michigan (Hudsonville HS) dashed 27 yards around left end for a touchdown to finish off a 75-yard, 10-play drive.
After Hope's defense forced Kalamazoo into a three-and-out, the Dutchmen came back with a 15-play, 62-yard drive that included a fake field goal run by holder David Bos of Hudsonville, Michigan (Unity Christian HS). On a fourth-and-1, Opple dove in from the four for his 16th rushing touchdown of the season, giving the Flying Dutchmen a 13-7 lead.
Hope then opened the second half with a 75-yard, 11-play march. Running back Mike Miklusicak, one of 17 Hope seniors playing their final home game, finished the drive with an 8-yard touchdown run for a 20-7 Dutchmen lead.
Later in the third quarter, Hope drove 81 yards in 10 plays, with Opple connecting with junior wide receiver Christian Bos of Hudsonville, Michigan (Unity Christian HS) on a 14-yard touchdown pass, extending the lead to 26-7.
Miklusicak, who led the Hope rushing attack with 117 yards on 18 carries, closed out the scoring with a 3-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. As a team, the Flying Dutchmen finished the day with 245 yards on the ground.
Defensively, the Flying Dutchmen put the clamps on Kalamazoo's offense, allowing a season-low 137 yards of total offense, with only 50 of those yards coming after the first quarter.
Hope sacked Kalamazoo quarterback Zach VanFaussien five times. Senior defensive end Tate Knapp of Dorr, Michigan (Hamilton HS) had a huge day with three sacks, giving him the MIAA lead with 10 for the season.
Sophomore linebacker Jeremiah Purnell of Dorr, Michigan (Wyoming HS) was all over the field, recording 13 tackles, including six solo stops and 3.5 tackles for loss.
Sophomore defensive back Chandler Brown of Woodstock, Georgia (Carlton J. Kell HS) intercepted his third pass of the season.
Opple completed 13 of 21 passes for 127 yards, with Christian Bos grabbing six of those completions for 68 yards. Opple also rushed for 76 yards on 18 carries.
Hope now leads Kalamazoo in the Wooden Shoe rivalry 57-31-6, including three straight wins under Stuursma.