by Alan Babbitt
The Mason-ry of the Hope College football team was exquisite this season.
Linebacker Mason Dekker and quarterback Mason Opple spearheaded the Flying Dutchmen's charge to a 9-1 regular-season record and a 7-0 mark in Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association play that earned the 21st league championship and the fifth NCAA Division III playoff berth in team history.
Dekker and Opple have been selected as the MIAA's Most Valuable Defensive and Offensive Players of the Year by the league's coaches. They headline the 2019 All-MIAA Football Team.
Head coach Peter Stuursma praised Opple, pictured left, and Dekker, pictured right, for their impact on the Flying Dutchmen.
"Mason (Opple) is simply the best D-III football player in the country in my opinion," Stuursma said. "He is tough, rugged and has a fierce 'compete' level that is off the charts. You only get the opportunity to coach a Mason Opple once in a lifetime," Stuursma said. "A three-year starter, two-time captain and the key cog to making our defense go, Mason (Dekker) is consistent, is rarely out of position, and makes everyone around him better. He is the consummate team player."
Dekker and Opple lead a group of 14 Hope players to receive All-MIAA First or Second Team honors.
Through the regular season, Opple completed 107-of-168 passes for 1,496 yards and 16 touchdowns. He did not throw an interception and had a 63.7 percent completion rate. He also finished second on the team in rushing with 839 yards and a team-leading 16 touchdowns on 156 carries.
In MIAA play, Opple threw for 834 yards and eight touchdowns and ran for 633 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Dekker played middle linebacker for the MIAA's No. 1 scoring defense that allowed 16.9 points per game. The Flying Dutchmen gave up seven or fewer points four times, including three times against MIAA opponents.
Dekker finished with 39 tackles and one interception.
Defensive tackle Jake Babb, senior from Caledonia, Michigan (Caledonia)
Safety Luke Beckhusen, senior from Coldwater, Michigan (Coldwater)
Receiver Christian Bos, senior from Hudsonville, Michigan (Unity Christian)
Linebacker Mason Dekker, senior from Holland, Michigan (West Ottawa)
Punter Austin Heeres, senior from Wyoming, Michigan (Grandville Calvin Christian)
Running back Kenyea Houston, sophomore from Chicago, Illinois (Westinghouse)
Left tackle Timothy Ivery, senior from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (Brother Rice)
Quarterback Mason Opple, senior from Hudsonville, Michigan (Hudsonville)
Center Zach Smith, senior from Suttons Bay, Michigan (Suttons Bay)
Hope's Second-Team Selections
Receiver Cooper Cecchini, senior from Hudsonville, Michigan (Hudsonville)
Left guard Noah de Velder, senior from Grand Rapids, Michigan (East Grand Rapids)
Right tackle Brady Eding, junior from Hamilton, Michigan (Hamilton)
Running back Connor Mellon, junior from Adrian, Michigan (Madison)
Linebacker Jeremiah Purnell, sophomore from Wyoming, Michigan (Wyoming)