ROME, Ga. — Berry College’s return home looked like it was off to a strong start. Any momentum the Vikings had in the game’s opening moments, however, quickly fizzled.
Playing before a crowd of 1,511 on their temporary home field at a local high school, Berry (1-5) jumped to a 6-0 lead in the first quarter following a pair of field goals, including a 45-yard kick, from Campbell Harrison. Centre (4-1) promptly responded with three touchdowns, taking a 21-6 lead into halftime en route to a 48-6 victory.
The first-year Berry squad, comprised mostly of freshmen, hung with Centre for three quarters, and the Vikings looked at times as though they might close the gap. Berry turned the ball over on downs three times — all in Centre territory — and the visiting Colonels erupted for 20 points in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
“Physically, it’s tough for us to keep it up for four quarters right now. That’s been our issue,” Berry Coach Tony Kunczewski said in a post-game interview. “We play a good half or we play a good three quarters, but it’s difficult for us to sustain that momentum for four quarters.”
The Vikings did themselves few favors on offense, struggling with snaps all game, as they have all six games this season. That clearly interrupted the offense’s timing and hindered their ability to move the ball forward.
Berry’s starting center is out with a knee injury and just one of several Vikings out with injuries. “The injuries are starting to pile up, but we’re not going to use that as an excuse,” Kunczewski said.
Still, the Vikings head coach found the positives in his team’s performance, including a run defense the kept the Colonels to 99 net rushing yards and a ground attack that is finding its rhythm. Berry’s Trevor Price continued to establish himself as the Vikings’ top rusher, picking up 55 yards on 14 carries, good for an average of 3.9 yards per carry.
“I think our running game got on track a little bit,” Kunczewski said. “I feel like we were more physical up front. I think we were more physical running the ball, which is what we want to be.”
With the win, Centre is now 1-0 in Southern Athletic Association action while Berry fell to 0-2 in SAA play. Centre next week faces Sewanee: The University of the South (2-4) at home in Danville, Ky., while Berry travels to Conway, Ark., to take on Hendrix College (2-3).
Hendrix is playing its first football season after a lengthy hiatus.
- Berry wide receiver Chris Lilly posted 236 all purpose yards, including 124 yards on nine receptions and 107 yards on five kick returns.
- Berry punter Mitchell Blanchard continued his strong play, kicking nine times and netting a 37.6 yards per punt average, including a long kick of 49 yards and two punts inside the 20.
- Centre punter Jake Johnson punted four times and sported a 49.2 yards per punt average, thanks to a 79-yard punt in the second quarter. Centre quarterbacks Heath Haden and Kyle Cook each punted once on fourth down plays that looked like the Colonels would go for it — for 32 and 41 yards respectively, both pinning the Vikings inside the 20 yard line.
- Centre completed one of two fourth down conversions while Berry didn’t complete any of its three fourth down attempts.
- Centre’s Alex Hay led the Colonels with 10 tackles and 2.5 sacks for a loss of 13 yards.
- Berry won the time of possession battle, holding the ball for 35:02 (79 offensive plays) to 24:58 for Centre (74 offensive plays).
- Coming into the game, Centre averaged 462.5 yards of total offense per game. Berry held the Colonels to 354 total offensive yards.