Cassopolis’ Andersons help Hope College win season opener
HOLLAND — The performance was well worth the wait for the Hope College football team.
Playing their first intercollegiate game in 651 days, the Flying Dutchmen jumped out to an early lead by scoring on their first two possessions and never looked back in defeating Anderson (Indiana) University, 42-7, at Ray and Sue Smith Stadium.
The win on Community Appreciation Night was the first for the Flying Dutchmen in a season opener since 2013.
Hope won the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship in 2019, going unbeaten in league play and finishing 9-2 overall. But the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the fall season for the league in 2020. The MIAA went with a spring season in March and April 2021, but Hope opted not to play, choosing to focus on getting ready for this fall.
“It was really exciting to be back playing college football,” said head coach Peter Stuursma. “We needed to have this. I mean, look at this atmosphere. People are still here an hour after the game, watching fireworks and just hanging out. I’m so excited just to have our guys back playing.”
After forcing a three-and-out on Anderson’s first possession, Hope wasted little time in moving down the field for its first score of the season. The Flying Dutchmen drove 45 yards in four plays, capped off by an 18-yard touchdown run by junior running back Daniel Romano of Royal Oak, (Shrine Catholic HS). Junior kicker Dylan Hillger of Holly, (Lake Fenton HS) kicked the extra point to give Hope a 7-0 lead 4:15 into the contest.
The Flying Dutchmen then forced another three-and-out, and took over possession near midfield after an Anderson punt. This time, Hope went to the air to strike pay dirt, as senior quarterback Joey Stark of Troy, (Troy Athens) hooked up with sophomore wide receiver Terrell Harris of Whitehall, (Whitehall HS) on a 42-yard touchdown connection, Stark’s first career touchdown pass. That made the score 13-0 in favor of Hope with 6:18 left in the first quarter.
The Flying Dutchmen extended their lead to 20-0 early in the second quarter on Romano’s second touchdown, a 13-yard run that capped a three-play, 44-yard drive.
Romano, pictured at left, finished with a career-high and game-high 134 yards rushing on 19 carries.
Hope outgained Anderson 587-234 in total offense, fueled by a 354-19 edge in rushing yards.
The Flying Dutchmen pulled ahead 35-7 by halftime.
After getting denied three times at the Anderson 1-yard line and yielding possession, the Flying Dutchmen recorded a safety by forcing Anderson quarterback Tyson Harley into an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone.
Following Anderson’s free kick, Hope drove 58 yards on four plays for a touchdown. Junior quarterback Chase Brown of Comstock Park, (Comstock Park) connected with junior wide receiver T.J. McKenzie of Muskegon, (North Muskegon) on a 32-yard touchdown pass for a 29-7 lead.
Just before halftime, Brown threw his second touchdown pass of the quarter, finding senior tight end Lucas Leak of Lansing, (Waverly) with a 5-yard score. The Flying Dutchmen were nearly even during the first half with 190 yards running the ball and 181 passing.
Hope added one more score during the third quarter, as Brown and Leak hooked up again, this time on an 8-yard touchdown pass.
Former Cassopolis standout Brandon Anderson rushed for 83 yards on 10 carries. Former Ranger Matthew Anderson had a sack, which was good for a six-yard loss.
While pleased with the win, Stuursma said there are some details the team needs to work on in getting ready for its next game.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Stuursma said. “I felt we did some things that we don’t normally do, made some mistakes we don’t normally make. I don’t think we were really sharp on special teams. We had … one turnover that we didn’t need to make. We had some substitution errors. That all falls on me. I like to think of this, that the biggest improvement happens between game one and game two.”
Hope will go on the road Saturday, Sept. 11 for a non-conference game at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Kickoff is 1 p.m.
Story courtesy Greg Chandler, Hope College.