By Cory Olsen
Another rocky start for the Hope College football team once again ended in victory Saturday.
The Flying Dutchmen defeated Lakeland, Wisconsin 37-35 in a Purple Community game benefitting Van Andel Institute where the Muskies topped in most of the stat categories, but Hope led much of the game after trailing 9-0 early.
Hope (2-1 overall) stopped a game-tying, two-point conversion pass, then recovered an onside kick in the closing seconds to preserve victory in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association - Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference Challenge Series.
"I'm so proud of our guys and what a great way to go into the off-week," head coach Peter Stuursma said.
The Flying Dutchmen next play at defending MIAA champion Olivet on Saturday, September 30 at 2 p.m.
Against Lakeland (1-1), two big offensive plays by Hope kept the Flying Dutchmen defense on the field for more than 42 minutes while the offense controlled the ball for a mere 18 minutes.
Hope trailed 9-0 in the first quarter until junior Brandan Campbell of Otsego, Michigan (Otsego HS) rammed up the middle and pulled away for a 68-yard touchdown run with 5:03 left in the quarter.
Campbell, who scored three touchdowns last week in the team's win over Defiance, gained 207 yards on 16 carries with two touchdowns Saturday. It was the 24th time in Hope's history that a back carried for over 200 yards. He also recorded an 82-yard run to set up a fourth-quarter touchdown that pushed the lead to 37-23.
"Our blocking was awesome," Campbell said. "They were bringing everybody in the box and our offensive line found a way -- they always do.
"I wouldn't be anything without my O-line. They're the money-makers, I just kind of follow in pursuit and get all the credit. I've got to give them all the credit today."
After the Flying Dutchmen blocked a field goal attempt by the Muskies early in the second quarter, senior Chris Leigh of Lake Orion, Michigan (Lake Orion) broke free for his own big run; a 58-yard touchdown to mark his first touch of the ball in over a year. That put Hope up 20-9 with 9:38 left in the half.
"When he was injured last year and told he couldn't play anymore, he still hung around the team," Stuursma said. "He was still there at every practice, running scout teams, holding cards up. The fact that he was able to come back, our team welcomed him back with open arms. He didn't even get hit on the first play. It was huge to see that and I'm real proud of him."
The team was also bolstered by the play of quarterback Mason Opple of Hudsonville, Michigan (Hudsonville), who took a liking to plowing into, through and sometimes over the Muskies' defensive line.
Opple ran 10 times for 48 yards, including a 23-yard scamper and a 13-yard touchdown run. He completed six of nine passes for 78 yards.
"You like to try to do that early in the game to kind of send a message," Opple said of his aggressive ways. "What's nice is when Brandan does it, that dude runs harder than anybody I've seen. So then when I'm coming through the defensive guys think, well it's just some quarterback, it's a nice little break. So I can do a little bit of that too, but our line was outstanding."
Hope's defense came up big when it needed to as well, sacking Lakeland quarterback Michael Whitley three times for 14 yards and knocked down a key conversion pass into the end zone that would have tied the game with 38.9 seconds left.
Whitley completed 48-of-58 passes for 377 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 64 yards and one score. Lakeland (1-1) outgained the Flying Dutchmen in total offense 564-397.
The Flying Dutchmen also scored on a 35-yard blocked punt return by senior Griffin Weigl of Saginaw, Michigan (Nouvel Catholic). Junior Chris Kelly of Troy, Michigan (Royal Oak Shrine Catholic) was credited with the block that led to Weigl's second defensive touchdown of the season.