Updated through 2019 season
ORIGINS OF HOPE FOOTBALL
Photos of what "might have been" Hope football teams date back to 1895. Controversy on a national level over the nature of the hard-contact game kept organized football play at Hope no more than a dream until 1902. Early in the 20th century Hope played non-collegiate opponents. The first recorded game against a collegiate opponent occurred in 1907 when the Flying Dutchmen lost to Benton Harbor College, 54-0.
Perhaps the first "domed" stadium was Holland's Riverview Park where the Flying Dutchmen played their football games from 1932 through 1978. Fans on the home side of the field were protected by a covered grandstand that had been moved to the site from the Holland fairgrounds.
Ray and Sue Smith Stadium is now home to the Flying Dutchmen football team. Formerly known as Holland Municipal Stadium, the facility opened in 1979 and was purchased from the City of Holland by Hope in 2012. A major renovation included the installation of a Pro Turf playing surface.
The Hope-Kalamazoo football series is known as the "Wooden Shoes Rivalry". The teams have been football rivals since 1910. The traveling trophy, a pair of hand-carved Dutch wooden shoes, has been part of the rivalry since 1931. For years the wooden shoes were viewed as unique among intercollegiate trophy games because when a tie occurs, the head coach of each team could have one shoe of the pair until the next year's game. That happened six times until the NCAA eliminated the tie game ending in 1996. The teams will be playing for the 91st time in 2011 with Hope holding a 51-33-6 series advantage.
COACHING HONORS AND MILESTONES
Ray Smith is the winningest coach in the history of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association. In 25 seasons (1970-94), he guided the Flying Dutchmen to a record nine MIAA championships while compiling a 91-28-6 league record and an overall record of 148-69-9. His 1984 Flying Dutchmen had a perfect season, the only Hope team to go unbeaten and untied. The 1975 team was also undefeated, but had one tie game.
Coach Alvin Vanderbush at Riverfront Stadium
When Hope won the 2007 MIAA championship, coach Dean Kreps joined an elite group of MIAA coaches to win six or more MIAA football championships during their career. He is just the seventh coach in the 110-year history of America's oldest collegiate conference to accomplish the fete, winning six titles during his 16-year tenure (1995-10). His 2006 champion Flying Dutchmen became the first MIAA team to win seven conference games in a season since 1901. The team had an amazing season losing its first three non-conference games and then winning seven in-a-row in the MIAA.
Led by Peter Stuursma ‘96, the Flying Dutchmen posted the biggest single-season turnaround in team history with a 7-3 overall record during Stuursma’s first season in 2016. Hope rushed for a school-record 2,738 yards and passed the old mark of 2,433 by the 1971 team.
The teacher-coach model was embodied in Alvin W. Vanderbush. A member of the history faculty from 1946-72, he was Hope's football coach eight of those years. He guided the Flying Dutchmen to Hope's first outright conference championship in 1953 with a roster consisting of just 39 players, including a freshman quarterback. He was the first recipient of the "Hope Outstanding Professor Award" (1965). In 2004, Hope football alumni honored him with a plaque at the American Football Coaches Hall of Fame: "Coach Al Vanderbush refused to let us settle for less than our best. He taught us to play with intensity but never without respect for the rules, for our opponents and for ourselves. In his daily life, he modeled the man of Christian character, discipline, intellect and integrity, as effectively then as it continues in our hearts to this day. We honor him for what he did for us."(Football players of Hope College, 1946-54.) Mr. Vanderbush died on Feb. 20, 2005.
PLAYS AND PLAYERS OF NOTE
Hope's first All-MIAA football player was Louis Japinga '34. The speedy halfback was also an effective passer and placekicker. He achieved All-MIAA three consecutive years.
Bob Powers '40, who captained the 1939 team, was the first Hope athlete in any sport to be named the MIAA's Most Valuable.
After leading the Flying Dutchmen to an MIAA co-championship in 1951, all-league quarterback Ron Schipper '52 embarked on a remarkable coaching career. Following eight years in the high school ranks, he moved to Central College in Iowa where over the next 36 years he was one of the most successful small college coaches in America, compiling a 287-67-3 record. In 2004, he was presented the Amos Alonzo Stagg Award by the American Football Coaches Association. Mr. Schipper died on March 27, 2006.
Running back Brandon Graham '98 rewrote the MIAA and Hope record books. He rushed for six touchdowns in a single game, set a school, led the MIAA in rushing yardage three consecutive years, and gained nearly 4,400 yards over his career.
In 2016, Hope had two players rush for over 1,000 yards each for the first time: Brandan Campbell '18 and Mike Miklusicak '19.
Joe Schwander ‘06 became the first Hope quarterback to rush for more than 200 yards in a game when he gained 209 yards on 25 carries over Alma in 2005. That record was broken by Mason Opple ’20 who, at quarterback, rushed for 244 on 27 carries against Olivet in 2018.
Hope football alumni coached Michigan high school football teams to unprecedented success in 2008. Three Hope alumni were the head coach of teams that captured Michigan state high school championships -- Peter Stuursma '93 who coached East Grand Rapids High School to a third straight Division 3 state championship; Pat Collins '97 who guided Montague High School to the Division 6 state championship in his fifth season as head coach; and Greg Vaughan '99 who led Traverse City St. Francis High School to the Division 7 state championship in his first season as head coach.
A school-record touchdown dash with an intercepted pass put the exclamation point on a comeback 2011 season as the Flying Dutchmen defeated Olivet 27-7. Sophomore Santino DiCesare picked off an Olivet pass at the back of the Hope end zone and returned it all 108 yards for a touchdown. It goes into the record book as a 100-yard interception return and tied the school mark first set by Randy Ames in 1996 against Adrian.
Achieving all-conference football honors in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) has without a doubt become a tradition for one Hope family. In 2012, Joe Droppers became the fifth member of his family to achieve the honor when he was named to the All-MIAA first team. He joined his grandfather Don "Doc" Van Hoeven (1955), his father Kurt (1978), his brother Jacob (2006-07), and his brother Josh (2009-11) as first team all-league players. All were offensive linemen.
Quarterback Mason Opple completed a rare touchdowns trifecta during a 29-24 win at Albion on October 6, 2018. He figured in all four of Hope's touchdowns: two on touchdown passes of 30 and 66 yards, ran in a score from 1 yard out, and caught a 17-yard touchdown pass.
The Flying Dutchmen broke a 100-year-old school record for most points in a game as the Hope rolled to an 80-6 victory over Defiance (Ohio) College on September 14, 2020. The previous school record for points in a game by Hope was 71, set in 1919 against Ferris Institute (now Ferris State University) in a 71-7 win. In the Defiance game, Hope passed for 297 yards and rushed for 175. The Flying Dutchmen defense picked off five Defiance passes, recovered two fumbles and recorded six sacks.