ROME, Ga. — Berry College will have the first road test of its inaugural football season when the Vikings head to Macon for a Saturday showdown with Mercer University, which looks to remain unbeaten.
The Vikings are coming off their program’s first win, a 37-27 victory Sunday over the LaGrange College JV squad. Berry saw success early in the game, taking a 34-7 lead into halftime before letting the visiting Panthers back into the contest.
Saturday’s showdown looks to be particularly challenging for the Division III Vikings as they take on a Mercer team that competes in the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly known as I-AA. In addition, while Mercer this year restarted its program after a seven-decade hiatus, the team spent the past year practicing to prepare for the season, which opened Aug. 31.
“They’ve got good players. Even though they’re a first year program, they practiced all last year,” Berry Coach Tony Kunczewski said following the win over LaGrange. “And, they have a great coaching staff, outstanding facilities there and great support like we do.
“It’s going to be a huge, huge challenge for us, but it’s good to see some success out on the field today and hopefully that can propel us going into” the Mercer game, Kunczewski added.
Mercer (2-0) is playing its first football season since the 1940s and has drawn a considerable fan base. Tickets to the Bears’ season opener sold out in a matter minutes.
The Bears defeated Reinhardt University (1-2), another startup football program, on Aug. 31 in a 40-37 shootout. Last Saturday, Mercer handily defeated Warner University (0-3), an NAIA startup football program, by a 61-0 margin as the Bears amassed 570 total offensive yards.
But, Mercer doesn’t kick off Pioneer Football League conference play until Sept. 28 when it takes on Drake University (0-2) in Macon.
“Yes, we’re 2-0. Yes, we’re happy to be 2-0,” The Telegraph of Macon quoted Mercer Coach Bobby Lamb as saying. “But we still have no idea how good we are. Only time’s going to tell, once we get into the league and start playing against juniors and seniors.”
- Berry quarterback Adam Sandin has completed 22 of 39 pass attempts for 234 yards and a pair of touchdowns, good for a 123.7 rating.
- Mercer’s ground attack has averaged 6.5 yards per carry while the Bears’ defense has held opponents to 3.5 yards per carry.
- Mercer receiver J.T. Palmer leads the Mercer receiving corps with seven catches for 123 yards and three touchdowns.
- Mercer running back Payton Usher leads the Pioneer Football League with 106.5 rushing yards per game and 164.5 all-purpose yards per game.
- Mercer’s shutout of Warner is the program’s first since 1941, the last year of football before this year’s restart. That year, the Bears blanked Georgia Southern, 25-0.
- Saturday’s game is the first of three consecutive road games for Berry; the Vikings travel next to Rhodes College (Sept. 28) and Washington University (Oct. 5). The Rhodes game will mark Berry’s first Southern Athletic Association contest.