With the top two teams in the Southern Athletic Association facing off, Berry’s success in all aspects of the game allowed the Vikings to retain their perfect record and send Hendrix home with its first loss of the season.
The seventh-ranked Vikings got a 27-9 win over the Warriors on Saturday afternoon at Valhalla Stadium, making them the only team in the SAA with a perfect record with four games left in the season.
“Now we absolutely control our own destiny, with four tough ones to play,” Berry head coach Tony Kunczewski said. “We know everybody is going to give us their best effort, but I hope we can give everybody else our best effort, too. This was a big victory.”
The Vikings’ defense took away the running game for the Warriors, holding the team to 32 yards on the ground after they put up nearly 200 yards last week against Rhodes.
Kunczewski said the defensive showing was one of the best he’s seen in his seven years as Berry’s head coach.
“To hold this team without a touchdown is a tremendous job,” Kunczewski said. “They got some yards, but when it was make-or-break time in the red zone, we did a great job of limiting them to field goals. We’ve had a lot of really good defensive performances through the years, but that might be one of the better ones.”
David Galloway highlighted the Berry defense with two sacks for a loss of 21 yards, while Brandon Palmer, Alex Kirkendoll, Jake Weitkamp, and Jack Carroll each had one sack.
While the defense held the Warriors (4-1, 1-1 SAA) at arms length, the Vikings’ special teams put Hendrix in difficult situations throughout the game.
Mason Kinsey returned a kickoff in the second quarter a record 97 yards for a touchdown — Berry’s second ever touchdown on a kickoff return. Jordan Wilson blocked a field goal attempt in the fourth quarter, former Model player Matthew Syverson punted twice, each time pinning the Warriors inside their own 10-yard line, and Trey Gregory had two field goals, including one for a program-record 49 yards that put Berry up 20-6 in the third quarter.
Kunczewski praised assistant coach Colin Duling for his efforts on the special teams front.
“He handles our kickoff returns, and he’s been working hard on that all week. It was a great call,” Kunczewski said. “It was an outstanding job by Wilson. That cuts it to a one-touchdown game if he doesn’t block that kick at the end. There were so many key points. A kickoff return, our punt team — it was a really good job against a really good undefeated team.”
The Vikings’ offense featured a balanced attack of passing and running with Heath Burchfield and Gavin Gray combining to throw for 190 yards and Isaiah Dawson leading the ground attack with 88 yards on 11 carries.
Kinsey again put up big numbers in the passing game, hauling in 10 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown to give the senior 48 touchdowns in his career.
“We’re controlling the line of scrimmage,” Kunczewski said. “If you’re controlling the offensive and defensive lines, then you have a chance to be successful. We knew the quarterback was going to get his yards, but they rushed the ball 34 times for 32 yards. We had a balance that they didn’t have.”
The Vikings (6-0, 4-0) will go up against conference foe Birmingham-Southern next Saturday on the road. The Panthers are 3-2 and coming off a 46-7 win over Rhodes.
Berry receiver Michael Luckie was injured in the second quarter after catching a 26-yard pass and getting tackled on the Berry sideline. Trainers worked with Luckie before the sophomore receiver was taken off on a stretcher.
“That’s tough,” Kunczewski said, adding that it was a knee injury. “Our thoughts and prayers are definitely with Michael. He just battled back. Michael is such a competitor, and he’s going to be back for us.”
Luckie missed the first two games of the season because of a finger injury he suffered during fall camp and has only played in four games.
Cade Kennemore finished with three catches for 16 yards and has been a receiver that’s been effective as the Vikings deal with injuries to Luckie and former Pepperell player T.J. Watkins, who hasn’t played since injuring himself during a practice session for Week 2 of the season.