100 Years of Hope Football
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A Legacy of MIAA Champions
Hope College football teams have won the championship of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) a total of
20 times since joining America's oldest collegiate conference in 1934. Thirteen of the championships have been outright while
seven have been co-championships, including a pair of tri-championships. Here is a short synopsis of each championship year.
The first MIAA championship, shared with Kalamazoo, came eight years after Hope
became a conference member. The league schedule consisted of just four games.
Hope was 2-1-1. Defense was Hope's forte as league opponents scored just three
touchdowns in those four games. Hope coach Bud Hinga was a graduate of league
co-champion Kalamazoo. A 6-6 tie with Alma was controversial. An Alma fumble
in the end zone was ruled a touchback; Alma thought it should have been a TD.
The league disallowed an Alma protest.
An MIAA co-championship, one shared with Alma, was accomplished by a Flying Dutchmen
team consisting of just 34 players. In the matchup of co-champions, Hope prevailed
over Alma 21-13. The decisive touchdown was accomplished on a Statue of Liberty
play that saw Jim Williard race 75 yards for a score before a stunned Alma homecoming
crowd. A "Glory Day" was declared by the college with classes cancelled the following
Monday, after chapel that is.
Hope's first outright MIAA championship came in the college's 24th year of league
play. The Flying Dutchmen of coach Al Vanderbush started the season with 28 players
on the roster, including a freshman quarterback. The championship was clinched
at home in a 12-7 "Wooden Shoes" victory over Kalamazoo. The game-winner came
on a fourth quarter halfback-option pass of 20 yards from John Adams to John
The march to an MIAA championship began and ended with an exciting play. Speedster
Jim Mohr recovered the league-opening kickoff in the end zone as the Dutchmen
went on to rout Alma 32-12 and Bill Huibregtse's 39-yard field goal with no time
left on the clock gave Hope a 16-13 victory over Hillsdale. The win snapped Hillsdale's
28-game MIAA winning streak. The league title, albeit a tri-championship shared
with Hillsdale and Albion, was the first under coach Russ DeVette.
Hope's march to an MIAA championship had a literal bump in the road. En route
to rival Albion, the team bus blew a tire. Fortunately, a school bus from Paw
Paw high school happened along the way and its driver agreed to take the team
to Albion. Hope would go on to spoil the Brits' homecoming 21-6. After an 0-4
start, Hope would go 5-0 to gain the co-championship with Kalamazoo.
It would be a decade and under a new coach before the Flying Dutchmen would win
another MIAA championship. The title would be the first of a league-record nine
over the next quarter-of-a-century with Ray Smith at the helm. This year's champion
would outscore it league opponents 133-31.
The nationally ranked Flying Dutchmen averaged a school-record 30 points a game.
The only blemish in an 8-0-1 season was a 21-21 tie with rival Albion.
The last season at venerable Riverview Park was especially memorable as the Flying
Dutchmen won the MIAA championship with a perfect 5-0 record. An individual highlight
was the prowess of kicker Greg Bekius who booted 53 consecutive PATs.
The Flying Dutchmen celebrated their first season at Holland Municipal Stadium
by repeating as MIAA champions. Hope during the decade of the 70s would have
the best record of any Michigan college or university football team (65-22-3).
This championship season would mark the beginning of Hope's most successful decade
of MIAA football.
The Flying Dutchmen outscored their five league opponents by 149 points. The
pre-game and halftime talks from the coaching staff were impacting as Hope outscored
opponents 88-9 in the first quarter and 62-0 in the third.
Hope's one and only perfect season over 99 years of play actually ended in disappointment
as the Flying Dutchmen were not invited to the NCAA Division III championships.
That has since changed with the league champion receiving an automatic berth
in the post-season tournament. Quarterback Greg Heeres set national passing records,
including the best percentage of passes that resulted in touchdowns. The entire
offensive backfield was voted All-MIAA!
A dramatic league-season ending tie with rival Albion didn't spoil Hope's opportunity
to play in the NCAA championships for the first time. Trailing 29-23 with less
than two minutes to play, the Flying Dutchmen marched 80 yards for a touchdown
with :04 to play. An opportunity to win the game escaped the Dutchmen when the
PAT snap from center-to-kicker failed to get to the holder. More than 4,000 fans
watch in silent disbelief as the teams battled to a tie for the second consecutive
year. Tie games in college football ended in 1996.
This MIAA championship season ended with mixed emotions. While the Flying Dutchmen
were claiming their fifth league crown of the decade they were also playing with
defensive coordinator Russ DeVette on the sidelines for the final time. Coach
DeVette's contribution to Hope football covered four decades and 323 games.
The Flying Dutchmen won their first MIAA championship under coach Dean Kreps,
albeit a shared title with Adrian. A dramatic 28-25 victory over rival Albion
in the season's final game clinched the title. Tailback Brandon Graham rewrote
Hope and MIAA rushing and scoring records and was named Michigan's Division III
player of the year.
The season came down to a "must win" game against rival Kalamazoo in the traditional
Wooden Shoes rivalry contest. Albion and Alma had already clinched a share of
the championship and Hope needed the victory to make it a three-way tie. It was
supposed to be a showdown of the league's best defensive teams, but the offenses
prevailed. The Hornets scored a touchdown on their first possession, but the
Flying Dutch responded with 30 unanswered points to gain a 44-28 victory and
the MIAA championship.
It was a championship year that started with the team's first-ever international
trip, an exhibition game in Queretaro, Mexico in the sweltering heat of a summer
afternoon. It ended five months later on a snow-covered field in the NCAA Division
III playoffs. In between the Flying Dutchmen were undefeated in MIAA play. Trailing
9-0 to rival Albion at halftime, the Flying Dutchmen scored a pair of touchdowns
on passes from J.D. Graves to Mike Gle, the game-winner coming on a 45-yard toss
in the fourth quarter.
The Flying Dutchmen captured their fourth MIAA championship in nine seasons under
coach Dean Kreps. The team rode the arm of senior quarterback Phil Butler who
finished with career numbers of 86 touchdown passes and completions covering
The Flying Dutchmen became the first MIAA team to win seven conference games. Dean Kreps became just the sixth coach in the 109-year history of the MIAA to win five or more championships. The title run was highlighted by a 49-43 overtime win at Alma. The Flying Dutchmen rallied from a 20-point halftime deficit.
Hope's 20th MIAA championship season had many highlights including the 400th alltime football victory and the team's first win in a quarter-of-a-century at Albion. The Flying Dutchmen tied a school record for consecutive MIAA victories (14).