Football Falls In NCAA Playoffs to Wartburg, Closes Historic Season

by Greg Chandler

A historic football season for Hope College came to a close Saturday afternoon at Ray and Sue Smith Stadium as the Flying Dutchmen were defeated by Wartburg (Iowa) College, 41-3, in an NCAA Division III first-round playoff game.

The Flying Dutchmen, who earned an automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs by winning the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship, saw their nine-game winning streak come to an end, and finish their season with a record of 9-2.

The Knights, who earned an at-large bid to the playoffs, will take a 10-1 record into a second-round game next Saturday at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

The nine wins for Hope tied a school record for most wins in a season, originally set in 1984 when the Flying Dutchmen went undefeated. Hope also set a school record for most points in a season with 463, breaking the previous mark of 392 set last season.

Hope opened the scoring on its first drive in the game. After forcing the Knights to punt on their first possession, the Dutchmen took over at their own 28. On Hope's second play from scrimmage, sophomore running back Kenyea Houston of Chicago, Illinois (Westinghouse Prep) ripped off a 47-yard run, putting him over the 1,000-yard mark for the season, the 17th time a Hope back has topped the 1,000-yard rushing mark in school history.

Hope drove down to the Wartburg 9 before the Knights' defense stiffened. Senior placekicker Sam Allbritten of Warsaw, Indiana (Warsaw HS) kicked a 28-yard field goal to give the Dutchmen a 3-0 lead 5:31 into the game.

Hope's defense held again on Wartburg's second possession. But as the game wore on, the Knights began to assert their high-powered offense. Wartburg took advantage of a short field to drive 43 yards for its first score late in the first quarter. Quarterback Noah Dodd connected with wide receiver Kolin Schulte on a 21-yard touchdown pass to give the Knights a 7-3 lead, and Wartburg never trailed again.

Wartburg scored three touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 27-3 lead at halftime.

In the third quarter, Hope put together a methodical drive, starting from its 35. The Dutchmen converted on two fourth down opportunities and worked their way to the Wartburg 29, but the Knights held and took over on downs.

The Knights added two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter for the final margin of victory.

Hope was held to a season-low 243 yards in total offense, while Wartburg had 438 yards of total offense. Dodd led the way for the Knights, throwing for four touchdown passes and running for another. He completed 11 of 18 passes for 185 yards.

Senior quarterback Mason Opple of Hudsonville, Michigan (Hudsonville HS) closed out his career by completing 18 of 27 passes for 102 yards. The MIAA's Most Valuable Offensive Player did not throw an interception in 195 pass attempts this season, a school record for fewest interceptions in a season, breaking his own mark of one interception set last year. He did not throw an interception in 301 attempts dating back to his last pick, thrown in the fourth game of the 2018 season against Trine.

Opple also finished his career with 46 touchdowns, 45 rushing and one receiving, in addition to his 42 career touchdown passes. Only Brandon Graham, who scored 49 touchdowns from 1994-97, and David Booko, who scored 48 touchdowns from 2004-07, have more career touchdowns than Opple.

Houston led the rushing attack with 82 yards on 15 carriers, giving him 1,046 yards on the season. Senior wide receiver Christian Bos of Hudsonville, Michigan (Unity Christian HS) caught 10 passes for 52 yards. Senior defensive back Luke Beckhusen of Coldwater, Michigan (Coldwater HS) led Hope in tackles with six. | PO Box 9000, Holland, Michigan 49422