|Brandan Campbell, wearing Mike Miklusciak's No. 22 uniform.
Hope athletics photo
By Joe Sager
|Mike Miklusciak, on the sidelines.
Hope athletics photo
Brandan Campbell and Mike Miklusciak made Hope football history last season.
The juniors became the program’s first duo to rush for more than 1,000 yards apiece in the program’s 107 years. Their surge helped the Flying Dutchmen make team history as the squad went from 2-8 to 7-3 – the program’s best-ever turnaround from one year to the next.
That success had Campbell, Miklusciak and the rest of Hope’s players, staff and fans eager to see what could happen this fall.
However, Miklusciak’s season-ending knee injury suffered in preseason camp greatly altered that vision.
“We were going through a team scrimmage. It was a routine play and I cut and my knee kind of went ‘pop’. There was no contact when it happened. After I got tackled, I got up and ran off the field,” Miklusciak said.
The diagnosis – a torn ACL in his right knee.
“I was at a loss of words, more than anything,” he said. “Coming into preseason, I thought I was in the best shape I had ever been in, speed-wise and strength-wise. There’s a reason for everything and God has a plan. I just have to trust it.”
The injury left Campbell, Miklusciak and his teammates wondering what might have been this fall. Campbell, a north-south type of back, rushed for 1,361 yards last season – fourth-most in program single-season annals. Miklusciak, more of a shifty runner, finished with 1,081 yards.
“Last year was awesome. It was a fun season. We had a friendly competition,” Campbell said. “Normally, someone is vying for the No. 1 spot. Here, we had two No. 1’s. It was almost like security – if I had an off day, he could go in and get it done. It was all about the team for us.
“It was hard when he went down just because it wasn’t like he was hit in the knee. It was kind of a freak accident. I was here in the summer and so was he. We know how hard we worked on conditioning and training. For all that work not being able to pay off for him was tough,” he continued. “We fed off each other. He’d be on the field and he’d go and score and I wanted to go do the same thing. Now, we don’t have that thing to push each other over the edge.”
Campbell did have some extra motivation in Hope’s first game. With Miklusciak watching from a wheelchair on the sideline, Campbell came out wearing Miklusciak’s No. 22 jersey and rushed for 89 yards and three touchdowns in the team’s 38-0 win over Defiance.
“I kind of thought of it after our first game. It was going to be our first home game; it was a game we wished we could have had back last year and I thought it’d be fitting to wear his number and make him feel like he was out there,” he said.
Miklusciak was surprised to see Campbell in his No. 22 instead of Campbell’s usual No. 38.
“He didn’t tell me he was going to do it. When I saw it, it hit me a little bit,” he said. “Most of the time, when tailbacks are competing for that top spot, maybe they don’t get along. We are different. We fed off each other and, like he has said, we were copilots.”
While Miklusciak can’t play football this fall, he’s still trying to make an impact.
“They are not getting rid of me. I am still a thorn in their side,” he said. “I’ll get into everything I can. I’ve had a couple freshman running backs who have come to me for help and I’ve watched some film with them here and there. I try to pass on what I learned the last couple years. I joke around with them – when they ask how I am doing I say I’ll be alright as long as we keep winning.”
Miklusciak is unsure whether he’ll return to Hope next year to use his final season of eligibility.
“Currently, I’m undecided,” he said. “I am looking at grad schools and just want to see where life takes me a little bit.”
Campbell is ahead of last year’s pace at 143.0 yards rushing per game. With 429 yards through three games, he projects to finish with 1,430.
“I think our other backs are pretty good. I think they have good complementary skills,” he said. “I felt a little more weight on my shoulders to probably take more carries. I just sucked it up and thought I might as well just get it done.”
With Campbell leading the way, Hope is off to a 2-1 start. Picked as the preseason MIAA favorites, the Flying Dutchmen open conference play against Olivet, last year’s conference champ, on Saturday. Hope fell, 15-13, in last year’s clash.
“Everyone is looking forward to that game,” he said. “It hurt us a little last year. We’re just trying to take it one game at a time and keep going week after week and, hopefully, it’ll sort itself out.”
Heidelberg pulled off a stunner Saturday with a decisive 47-21 win over No. 9 John Carroll for its first triumph over a ranked team since 2012.
The Student Princes took advantage of six Blue Steaks turnovers, including five interceptions. Donovan Walker and Michael Warden both had two interceptions and returned one apiece for a touchdown to put the game out of reach late.
Heidelberg (3-0), which has won seven games in a row dating to last season, has scored 40 points or more in all three of its contests so far.
Grove City snapped a 33-game losing streak with Saturday’s 24-14 home win over St. Vincent in PAC action. It was the team’s first win since a 50-44 overtime triumph over Thiel to end the 2013 campaign.
Wesley Schools paced the Wolverines with 177 yards rushing and three touchdowns. He scored twice in the fourth quarter to help the team erase a 14-10 deficit.
In the polls
No. 2 Mount Union (3-0) rolled past Baldwin Wallace, 55-7. The Purple Raiders welcome Ohio Northern in OAC action.
No. 15 Wittenberg (3-0) beat Kenyon, 48-11. The Tigers face Denison in an NCAC battle.
No. 17 Washington & Jefferson (3-0) was off. The Presidents return to action against PAC foe Thiel.
No. 18 Case Western Reserve (3-0) topped Waynesburg, 56-21. The Spartans trek to St. Vincent in a PAC game.
No. 25 Wabash (3-0) edged Hiram, 25-21. The Little Giants visit Wooster in NCAC action.