Executing well in all aspects of the game, the Berry College football team sent LaGrange College back down Highway 27 with a 1-1 record.
The Vikings rolled up 397 yards of offense against its in-state rival, while the defense ended the night with nine sacks on the way to a 34-9 win Saturday at Valhalla Stadium.
The win pushes the 16th-ranked Vikings’ winning streak at Valhalla to 18 games while they improve to 2-0 on the year.
“We were really impressed with them coming into the game on both sides of the ball,” Berry head coach Tony Kunczewski said of the visiting Panthers. “We knew we had to be ready coming in. There was a lot of things that scared us about them. We had to work hard this week and it showed.”
Berry starting quarterback Heath Burchfield was 6 of 10 for 152 yards with a touchdown through the air and on the ground, and Mason Kinsey had three catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns.
The Panthers’ defense focused heavily on Kinsey, but all that did was allow for the Vikings to utilize another weapon in its arsenal as Cade Kennemore was able to get himself open throughout the night and haul in four catches for 98 yards.
“Offensively, we knew they were going to tilt the coverage toward Mason and Mason was still able to make some plays,” Kunczewski said. “But the other bright spot was Cade Kennemore, because with triple coverage to Mason, there are other guys that need to start making some plays. Cade came up big here today.”
Brock Skinner led the Vikings’ defense with nine total tackles and two sacks. Brandon Palmer finished with three total tackles and 2.5 sacks.
The defense kept the Panthers out of the end zone for most of the night before Brendon Scott scored on a 1-yard run with 5:15 left in the game for the final score.
One of many local players on the Vikings’ roster, former Calhoun quarterback Gavin Gray got a chance to show off for his new team when he hit Mason Kinsey on 65-yard touchdown pass to expand the Vikings’ lead to 21-3 with 9:28 left in the second quarter.
Gray and his former Calhoun teammate Zack Fuller did some damage to the LaGrange defense with Fuller leading the ground attack with 39 yards on seven carries. Gray — one of five quarterbacks who saw playing time for Berry — finished 4 of 9 for 111 yards and a touchdown.
“They’re talented kids, but they’re so well-coached and they know how to compete coming in. That’s a testament to the program they came from,” Kunczewski said of the two Calhoun alumni. “Judging from those two guys, we hope we can get a Calhoun kid every year.”
The kicking team was perfect on the day with Trey Gregory going 4-for-4 on extra points and a 44-yard field goal that put Berry up 24-3 with 3:51 left in the second quarter.
Former Model player Matthew Syverson — in his debut for the Vikings — kicked a 32-yard field goal with 7:48 left in the third to put Berry up 34-3.
Berry will be on the road next Saturday when the Vikings travel to face Southern Athletic Association foe Trinity beginning their quest for a fourth straight conference title.
For Jack and Kay
The Vikings had some extra motivation for the game as they honored former player Jack Morgan and longtime fan Kay Williams during pregame ceremonies. Both Morgan and Williams died this past May.
“Those are two special people in our young program’s history,” Kunczewski said. “We’re playing for more than just a win on Saturday, we’re playing certainly for Kay and for Jack and his family.”
Former Pepperell player T.J. Watkins did not play after suffering an injury during practice last week. The sophomore receiver had five catches for 85 yards in the Vikings’ season-opening win against Maryville.