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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Final Season at Cornell for Highlands Alum

Hope Enters Third Year as Starter for Big Red

PHOTO: Steve Hope. Cornell Defensive End and 2014 Highlands alum Seth Hope (middle) makes a tackle on Dartmouth running back Miles Smith (28) in an Ivy League game last season. Hope is entering his third season as a starter for the Big Red.
Playing football in the Ivy League lets men like 2014 Highlands alum Seth Hope continue to play the sport they love while earning a great education at a prestigious school.

But players are not under as much of a microscope as other programs. The Ivy League teams are members of the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision. But since they don't participate in the FCS playoffs once the regular season is done, players can see their families over the holidays and focus more time on pursuing their degrees.

Hope, 21, has made the most of this opportunity in his three years playing for the Cornell University Big Red located in central New York. Hope has seen the field all three years starting at defensive end in all 10 games for Cornell as a sophomore and junior.

"Seth has been a positive influence on our team from the minute he stepped on campus," said Jared Backus, Cornell Associate Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator. "He played early in his career, is a tireless worker and always brings his best. He is a great student-athlete in every area. He has been a part of a group of players that have laid down down a path for all of our future success here at Cornell."

Hope did not have to learn a new scheme at Cornell. The Big Red employ the 3-4 defensive scheme just like Highlands does.

"We're reloading just about everyone from last year so we're liking where we're heading into next year," Hope said. "It was nice to be able to kind of stay in the same packages going up to college. It's not as much of a learning curve as it could have been."

Hope recorded 40 tackles in each of his junior and sophomore seasons. That total led the Big Red defensive linemen last year. Hope registered two sacks and 4.5 tackles for a loss. Hope had seven tackles against Sacred Heart University and a pair of tackles for a loss and a sack in Cornell's 42-40 win at Columbia University on Nov. 12.

"As cliche as it is, it starts at the snap of the football," Hope said. "I think the biggest difference between high school and college is you have to be off the ball immediately. There is no room for error at all there. You have to have a good first step. Of course, our coaches teach us that. D-line is lot more fundamental than other positions at least in my opinion."

Those stats plus his near-3.9 grade-point average earned Hope a spot on the Capital One Second-Team Academic All-American and First-Team Academic All-District squad. Hope said he adjusted to the tough rigors academically well because Highlands prepared him for it.

"It's been an awesome experience so far," Hope said. "I'm a Finance (Major). I take that just as seriously as the football field. I never really missed a beat. I just do what we did at Highlands. Work hard and put all you got into everything you do. We find time for everything."

As a sophomore, Hope had five tackles for a loss and two fumble recoveries. That included 10 tackles at Dartmouth.

Hope played in six games as a freshman. He saw action as a back-up at outside linebacker and special teams on his way to earning his first varsity letter at Cornell. Hope made three tackles and one for a loss including two tackles at Brown University.

Cornell improved to 4-6 last season after consecutive 1-9 campaigns Hope's freshman and sophomore seasons. Hope would love to help the Big Red improve on that if not help Cornell to a share of its first Ivy League crown since the team shared it with Dartmouth University in 1990. Cornell has won a share of the Ivy League crown three times in league history and last recorded a winning season in 2005 going 6-4. Cornell has had three 5-5 campaigns since then.

Cornell has several rivals namely the Penn Quakers and in-state Columbia Lions from New York City in what's called the Empire State Bowl. While Hope admitted it is not as intense as playing Covington Catholic in high school, Cornell has not lost to the Lions in Hope's three seasons there. The victories over the Lions in 2014 (30-27 in New York City) and 2015 (3-0 in Ithaca) marked the lone wins of the year for Cornell.

The Big Red also beat Bucknell, Yale and Colgate last year. Those marked their first wins over teams other than Columbia since 2013.

Hope was well-known for his footwork at Highlands. He sacked Collins quarterback Lawson Page five times in the 47-0 Bluebird win in the Class 4A state championship game.

"They do a really good job training us up there," Hope said. "Of course it's nice having a very dedicated and specialized strength staff that knows the specifics of football and the D-line in regards to the weight room and off-season training. (The footwork) has gotten better because of the specialized work."

Hope, listed at 6-foot-3-inches and 245 pounds on the roster, said he's looking to take his speed to another level. Hope wants to reach 255 entering camp when the weight tends to melt off.

Hope said the attendance at home games drops from the first one where the alumni come back to the last one when the temperatures drop. Cornell played in front of a listed 15,493 fans against Yale in its home opener before playing in front of 6,333 in the last home game against Penn at Schoellkopf Field. But that does not bother him.

Hope is home for the summer. He returns to Ithaca in a few weeks. Cornell's first game is not until Sept. 16 at the University of Delaware.

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