The Hope College football team kicks off its 105th season with a decorated veteran roster that features four players who received all-league distinction in 2013, including three first-teamers.
Hope is coming off a 7-3 season in which the Flying Dutchmen tied for second in Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association play with a 4-2 league record.
Dean Kreps is entering his 20th season as head coach and 29th overall as a member of the Flying Dutchmen football coaching staff. He has guided Hope to a 101-85 overall record during his tenure, including six MIAA championships and an 80-33 mark in league games.
The Flying Dutchmen’s season opener is Saturday, Sept. 6, at Monmouth (Illinois) College. Monmouth is Kreps’ alma mater. Kreps played football at Monmouth for four years before graduating in 1984 and served as team captain his senior season.
Hope’s home opener is Saturday, Sept. 13 against Augustana (Illinois) on Community Day at Ray and Sue Smith Stadium. The game is part of the MIAA-College Conference of Illinois-Wisconsin Challenge Series. The Flying Dutchmen also will be in nonleague action play at Lakeland (Wisconsin) for the MIAA-Northern Athletics Conference Challenge Series and host Rockford (Illinois) on Saturday, Oct. 11.
MIAA play kicks off for Hope on Saturday, Oct. 4, at reigning league champion Albion College. The rest of the Flying Dutchmen’s MIAA schedule features a home game against Olivet College for Homecoming on Saturday, Oct. 18, a trip to Alma College on Saturday, Oct. 25, a visit to Adrian College on Saturday, Nov. 1, a home game against Trine University on Saturday, Nov. 8, and the regular-season finale at home against Kalamazoo College on Saturday, Nov. 15.
Hope was picked third in the preseason MIAA coaches poll.
The 2014 Hope roster of 144 players features 17 seniors, 28 juniors, 32 sophomores and 67 freshmen. The Flying Dutchmen have 36 returning letterwinners, including seven starters on offense and defense. Co-captains are seniors Kirby Crook of Beech Grove, Indiana (Beech Grove HS), Joe Droppers of Kalamazoo, Michigan (Portage Northern HS), and Cody Lindemulder of Mulliken, Michigan (Lakewood-Lake Odessa HS).
On offense, Droppers and senior Cal Livingway of Dearborn, Michigan (Dearborn HS), anchor a veteran offensive line that helped the Flying Dutchmen topped the MIAA in scoring at 32.3 points and averaged 407.4 yards in total offense. Droppers claimed his second All-MIAA First Team Recognition in 2013, while Livingway earned All-MIAA Second Team honors. Droppers is the fifth member of his family to earn All-MIAA plaudits and potentially can join his brother, Josh (2009-11), as a three-time honoree.
Senior receiver Taylor Brynaert of Washington, Michigan (Romeo HS), returns for the Flying Dutchmen. He ranked fifth in the MIAA last season at 5.33 receptions per game and eighth with 72.4 receiving yards per game. Brynaert finished with four touchdown receptions.
Hope will start a new quarterback and running back after graduating Michael Atwell, its third all-time leading passer with 6,094 career yards, and Shawn Jackson, its third all-time rushing leader with 3,289 career yards. Jackson was named the MIAA’s Offensive MVP in 2013.
On defense, Lindemulder is Hope’s top returning tackler at linebacker. He tied for ninth in the MIAA at 7.5 tackles per game in 2013 and was second on the Flying Dutchmen with 4.5 sacks. Crook was third on Hope at 6.5 tackles per game as a defensive back. Crook and Lindemulder shared the team-high with three interceptions.
Hope’s special teams feature two-time All-MIAA punter Dean DeVries, a junior from Grand Rapids, Michigan (Grandville HS). DeVries holds two of the top three, single-season punting performances in Hope history. He averaged 39.8 yards per punt on 51 attempts in 2013 and 40.5 yards per punt on 46 attempts in 2012.