It has been a year since the Hope College football team has suffered a regular season defeat.

That string of eight consecutive victories will be seriously tested Saturday (Sept. 8) as the Flying Dutchmen open their season against the last team to beat them.

Coach Dean Kreps' Flying Dutchmen travel to Valparaiso, Ind. to meet the Division 1-AA Crusaders. Kickoff at Brown Field will be 12 noon CDT (1 p.m. Michigan time). The game will be broadcast by WHTC-AM (1450) and WFUR-FM (102.9).

Valparaiso defeated Hope 20-7 on September 9, 2000. The Flying Dutchmen went on to reel off eight consecutive wins to capture the championship of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) and gain a berth in the NCAA Division III playoffs. Valparaiso continued on to win a share of the Pioneer Football League.

This will be the renewal a series the started in 1961. The Crusaders own a 4-2 advantage in the series.

Valparaiso, which is NCAA Division I in other sports, is classified I-AA in football because there are no athletic scholarships. Hope, as an NCAA Division III member, also does not award athletic scholarships in any sport.

While this will be the season-opener for Hope, it will be Valpo's second game of the season. Last Saturday the Crusaders lost at Davidson, N.C. 24-7. The Crusaders scored first, but Davidson responded with 24 unanswered points.

"We have had three good weeks of preparation," said coach Dean Kreps who begins his eighth season at the helm of the Flying Dutchmen. "Valparaiso will offer an excellent challenge. We've had some great games with them in recent years and I expect this to be another one."

Hope's opening offensive and defensive lineups have veterans at several positions, but there are a lot of questions.

The focus of attention on offense will be on the backfield where sophomore quarterback Jason Helsen (Ravenna HS) and sophomore tailback John Sloothaak (Hamilton HS) will be getting their first varsity start. And senior fullback Chris Mangus (Tawas HS) will be getting his first start since the 1999 season when he filled-in for an injured player for one game. Also starting for the first time will be junior tight end Jamie Buikema (Hudsonville HS).

On defense the attention will be on the linebacking and secondary corps which could include two freshman starters. Junior Matt Beaver (Traverse City West HS) and freshman Jason Misner (Parchment HS) are scheduled for their first starts at linebacker while junior Matt Baumbach (Wyoming Park HS) and freshman Andy Snyder (Berrien Springs HS) will be getting the call in the secondary for the first time.

Returning starters on offense include senior tackles Bill Crane (Cedar Springs HS) and Brian Hammer (Caledonia HS), senior guard Nick Kunnen (Reeths Puffer HS), junior guard Chad Rivette (Flint Central HS), junior center Josh Rumpsa (Forest Hills Central HS), and senior flanker Mike Gle (Brighton HS).

End Pat Warren (New Lothrop HS) is the only senior starting on defense.He'll be joined on the line by three veterans -- junior tackle Ryan Kerstetter (Grand Rapids South Christian HS), sophomore tackle Bill Rozema (Holland HS) and junior end Andy Keller (Hastings HS). Junior Josh Baumbach (Wyoming Park HS) returns at linebacker while returnees in the secondary include sophomore corner Brian Fielhauer (Byron HS) and junior corner Nick Conrad (Wyoming Park HS).

Junior punter Vince Scheffler (Chelsea HS) has been recognized as a pre-season Division III All-American and senior placekicker Ian Fish (Parchment HS) returns after missing most of the 2000 season with an injury.

The Flying Dutchmen have their home opener on Saturday, Sept. 15 against DePauw, Ind. for the 36th annual Hope/Holland Community Day game.