A share of a Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship and the NCAA Division III playoff berth eluded the Hope football team late on Saturday.
The Flying Dutchmen lost to Albion 34-31 after giving up a late touchdown drive and an overtime-forcing field goal hit off the left goal past at Ray & Sue Smith Stadium.
Hope (7-3 overall) tied for second in the MIAA with Kalamazoo with 4-2 league records, while Albion (8-2 overall) claimed an outright championship with a 6-0 mark.
It was a tough loss, Hope coach Dean Kreps said.
"I'm proud of our kids. We kept fighting. We could have laid down a couple of times there," Kreps said. "We too the ball 80 yards in a minute to get it in position to tie it."
The Flying Dutchmen march 48 yards in 41 seconds to give themselves a chance at a score-tying field goal of 31 yards.
The drive nearly answered a go-ahead series for Albion. The Britons answered a 17-yard touchdown recaption from junior Taylor Brynaert of Washington (Romeo HS) with a seven-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a 4-yard touchdown pass with 51 seconds remaining.
Hope went 62 yards in nine players for a 31-27 lead with 1:57 remaining.
"We had some breakdowns, kept fighting through them, got back on top," Kreps said. "It doesn't just come down to the kick. We had other plays we could have done it. We shouldn't have let them score. We had lots of stuff like that."
Senior quarterback Michael Atwell of Geneseo, Ill. (Geneseo HS), threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns.
Atwell concludes his Flying Dutchmen career third with 6,505 passing yards. He trails only Phil Butler (8,810 between 2000-03) and current Hope assistant coach Jake Manning (6,855 between 2005-08).
Senior running back Shawn Jackson of Comstock Park (Comstock Park HS) ran for 126 yards on 26 carries. He finished with 3,294 career rushing yards, good for third place at Hope behind Brandon Graham (4,362 between 1995-97) and Davd Booko (3,635 between 2004-07).
Atwell and Jackson were among 13 seniors who played their final games for the Flying Dutchmen.