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October 1, 2012

The Game of All Games: Hope vs. Hillsdale, October 25, 1958

Excerpted and edited from the book, "Journey of Hope: Names and Games Remembered", a history of intercollegiate athletics at Hope College by Gordon M. Brewer, director of athletics at Hope from 1960-88 and a member of the football coach staff when this game was played.

In the annals of Hope (and perhaps MIAA) football, no game shines brighter than the one played on October 25, 1958 at Hillsdale. In succeeding eras, rules, techniques and equipment have changed, making comparisons difficult. However, for excitement, tension and sheer drama, the encounter stands alone. The game, replayed and embellished for years, is now fraught with innocent fabrications. Ironically, as one examines the action as it occurred, there is little need to embellish.

Circumstances preceding the match-up undoubtedly increased the interest and attention it received. Hype was rampant in Holland and increased daily with the countdown to game day. Frank "Muddy" Waters had taken over at Hillsdale in 1954 and promptly won the MIAA title with a perfect 6-0 record. In stunnng fashion he had repeated the feat in 1955, 1956 and 1957. And now in 1958 the Dales had posted three more MIAA wins to extend their streak to 27. But the Flying Dutchmen had challenged in 1957 before falling by the narrow margin of 7-6. Hope's last victory in the series had been by a 28-7 count in the 1953 championship year. The stage was set for a small-college classic, and fans would not be disappointed.

A clear majority of the 2,200 in attendance for the night game had made the trip from Holland and too their place in the stands, all of which were on the home team's side of the field. Press box facilities were adequate for the time, but no field phones were available for the visitor's bench. Anticipating this, coaches Russ DeVette and Ken Weller could be seen prior to game time stringing wire around the field and up to the press box, where coach Weller would later take his perch.

 

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