If you took a look at the boxscore of the Hope College-Lakeland University football game, you would be absolutely sure that Lakeland won this game. They had over 564-yards of total offense, had possession of the ball for 42:11, and had 101 total plays to 43 for the Flying Dutchmen. Yet, it was Hope that came up with the huge victory thanks to the big play. Brandan Campbell rushed for 207-yards, and the defense came up with a huge stop on the final offensive play of the game for the Muskies to preserve the 37-35 victory.
The Muskies would take the lead right off, when they moved 70-yards in 10-plays on their opening possession. Eldrada Meeks carried the ball three times on the drive, gaining 40-yards to help Lakeland move to the Hope one-yard line. On first and goal, QB Michael Whitley found Jamal Hawkins-Sconiers for the touchdown. The Muskies went for two and were not successful, making it 6-0.
Lakeland went for the onside kick, but it was recovered by Hope College at the Muskies 46. On the next play, Mason Opple found Logan Shadaia for 31-yards, but Larry Rivers knocked the ball loose from the receiver. He recovered, moving it to the 25 before he was tackled. The Muskies then moved down the field to the Hope 13. There the drive stalled, and Conrad Foss hit a 31-yard field goal to make it 9-0.
The game was looking ugly early, but Campbell changed all of that. On the next possession for the Flying Dutchmen, Campbell was given the ball on the second play of the drive and ran 68-yards for the score. That made it 9-6.
On the next possession for Lakeland University they were forced to punt. Chris Kelly burst through the line and blocked the kick. Griffin Wiegl recovered and raced 35-yards for the score to make it 13-9. That was his second touchdown of the season.
It became 20-9 with 9:38 left in the half. On third and 1 at the Hope 42, the ball was handed to Chris Leigh. The senior was making his first appearance of the 2017 season after suffering through an injury riddled last two years. He took the ball and shook off a tackler before racing 58-yards for the score on his first touch of the season. That made it 20-9.
Lakeland cut that lead to five with 3:17 left in the half. Meeks started the drive with back-to-back carries for 20 combined yards and a first down to the Muskies 44. On third and 12, Whitley kept the ball and made a great play for 13-yards and another first down. Four plays later it was first and goal at the 5, where Meeks ran for daylight, scoring to make it 20-15. That would be the score at the half.
On the first possession of the second half, it would be the Flying Dutchmen’s defense that would come up big. The Muskies were faced with a fourth and 1 at their own 34 and opted to go for it. Meeks had been stopped on third and 1, and was given the ball again, but he was stuffed by Ian Gorgenson and Zach Telfor, turning the ball over on downs. The Hope offense could not move the ball, but Darren Ford kicked a 45-yard field goal to extend the lead to eight.
Lakeland responded by moving 75-yards in 13-plays to tie the score. Whitley led the drive with his arm and his legs, passing for 52-yards and running for 25 more. On first and goal at the 7, the QB kept the ball and scored and, after the two-point conversion, the game was tied at 23.
The Flying Dutchmen did a little responding of their own, moving 71-yards in 12-plays. Mason Opple scored from 5-yards out to make it 30-23 in a drive that took 5:28 off the clock.
On the next possession for Lakeland, they looked like they would tie the score again. The Muskies moved to the Hope 1 where they faced first and goal, but the defense moved LU back two yards and were able to force a huge turnover on downs when Whitley’s pass fell incomplete on fourth and goal. That proved to be the biggest play of the game as, on the next play, Campbell took the ball at his own 3 and raced 82-yards before he was finally brought down at the Lakeland 15. Two plays later, Opple scored from 13-yards out to make it 37-23.
On the next possession for the Muskies they would pull within eight. Whitley helped move the ball 67-yards in 10-plays. The big play in the drive was a 23-yard strike to Jody Harrison on third and 5 that put the ball on the Hope 11. Two plays later, Dezmon Eddie scored to make it 37-29. The point-after attempt was blocked to keep it an eight-point lead.
The Lakeland defense forced a three and out and, following the punt, the Muskies began at midfield. On the first play of the drive, Whitley was sacked for a seven-yard loss, but he then found Allante Gardner for 8-yards to the Hope 49. On the next play, Whitley was sacked and fumbled the ball, but Evann Belvin recovered to keep the Muskies hopes alive. It was now fourth and 15, and the team turned to their star quarterback to make a big play. He came through, finding Dezman Morse for 19-yards and a first down to the Hope 36. A 23-yard strike to Gardner put the ball at the 13, and Whitley then found Morse for the touchdown to pull Lakeland within two. The Muskies went for two, and Whitley found his man in the end zone, but a huge hit jarred the ball loose from the receiver for an incomplete pass, keeping the score 37-35. The Flying Dutchmen recovered the onside kick and the game was over.
Brandan Campbell had 207-yards rushing and 2-TDs on just 16-carries for Hope College. Mason Opple was 6-9 passing for 78-yards and he rushed for 48 more. Luke Beckhusen and Nick Holt led the Flying Dutchmen defense with 13-tackles a piece. Griffin Weigl had 10, a sack, and scored a touchdown.
Michael Whitley had a huge day for Lakeland, going 48-58 for 377-yards and 2-scores. Eldrada Meeks rushed for 128-yards and a score. Dezmen Morse had 106-yards receiving and a TD and Allante Gardner had 104-yards receiving. Diante Moses had 1.5 sacks to lead the Muskies defense.
The Lakeland University Muskies (1-1) travel to Platteville next weekend to take on the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 PM.
By Robert Pannier