All four quarters, Berry College’s football team did what it could to keep a record-setting season from ending.
From forcing turnovers, making fourth down stops and coming up with big scoring drives, it wasn’t enough to slow down one of the more prolific teams in Division III.
St. Thomas scored the first 22 points of the game and racked up 480 yards of offense in a 29-13 win over the Vikings in the second round of the NCAA D-III playoffs Saturday in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The loss is Berry’s first of the season and snaps its 16-game win streak.
“As soon as we put on the film Sunday, we saw why St. Thomas is one of the class programs in NCAA Division III,” Berry head coach Tony Kunczewski said.
“We had to make some adjustments early but it felt like we battled. This is the next step hopefully to putting Berry on more of the national level. Hopefully it will help our conference and it will help our part of the country in Division III football.”
Junior quarterback Tate Adcock, taking over for starter Slade Dale in the second quarter, went 12-of-29 for 239 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore receiver Mason Kinsey was the main target, recording 157 receiving yards and catching both scores.
Berry (11-1) failed to convert a first down on its first six drives, and the offensive woes put St. Thomas in good field position many times.
“We settled down on defense, made some adjustments and got some stops,” Kunczewski said. “We knew they’re really special on defense and we weren’t going to have a lot of opportunities and that we had to keep it a low-scoring game.”
The Tommies first struck on their second drive as Jacques Perra threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Gabe Green. After a Berry punt, Perra found Green again for a 16-yard touchdown to go up 14-0.
St. Thomas (11-1) scored again early in the second, with Josh Parks scoring from a yard out and a two-point conversion made it 22-0. But Berry got a chance late in the half when it got into the red zone on a 37-yard pass to wideout Trey Ciresi.
But four consecutive incompletions from Adcock turned the ball over, and the Vikings went into halftime down 22-0.
The Vikings finally got on the board in the third, when Adcock found Kinsey for a 7-yard touchdown pass on fourth down. The pair hooked up again for an 8-yard touchdown pass with 4:37 left in the game.
The loss ends a season of firsts for Berry, including its first ever playoff appearance and first outright conference title. Last week, the team notched its first ever playoff win in a 34-20 win against Huntingdon.
While their season is over, the Vikings’ performance stacks up well compared to other St. Thomas opponents. Berry scored the third-most points against the Tommies so far this season and forced two interceptions and three turnovers on downs on defense.
“We’ve been one of the top defenses at the national level,” Kunczewski said. “I know they were able to run for a lot of yards, but it was on 64 attempts and almost 100 plays. We’ve just got good players on defense.”