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College Football: Winless Lions face tough MIAA foe in Hope

HANCOCK — Before the season began, Finlandia University football coach Travis Wiltzius talked about the tough Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association.

“It is one of the best football Divison II football leagues in the country,” said Wiltzius, who’s in his second season as head coach at FU. “There are no easy games.”

The Lions, winless over a season and a half in the league, know how rigid the conference is.

This week won’t present any easier a chance for the Lions to break into the win column. At noon Saturday, the Lions will host Hope (4-1, 2-0).

Hope has a high-powered offense and has scored 104 points in its last two games against Trine College and Albion College.

“They’re a very fine football team,” Wiltzius said. “They move the ball on the ground and in the air.”

In a 54-33 win over Albion last week, the Flying Dutchmen had two 100-yard rushers in Conner Mellen (124) and Markell McCoy (103).

Quarterback Mason Opple added 94 yards rushing, while passing for 143 more.

Finlandia, in dropping a 44-0 decision to Kalamazoo College last week, managed under 120 yards of total offense.

“We’ll have to pick it up offensively,” Wiltzius said. “We’re looking to get our air game going.”

Freshman quarterback Darin Johnson was rushed hard by Kalamazoo and he managed just 13 yards throwing the football as a result.

Freshman tailback Bailey Harris gained 46 yards on the ground last week for the Lions.

If Johnson is able to get loose, Kenny Kujawa leads the locals in receptions and yards. Josh Eve is another threat as a receiver.

Christian Creten had a great game last week for the Lions, recording 17 tackles.

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