A large group of newcomers will join the Berry College football team this season, with the local area being represented by a number of players once again.
In the group of more than 40 players, five are from the surrounding area, and head coach Tony Kunczewski wants to see the players not only contribute to the team this season but to the success of the program as a whole.
"We talk a lot about not just building good teams, but building a successful program," Kunczewski said in a release. "Our coaches and players have worked extremely hard on that. We all realize that it takes a lot of effort to keep this thing moving in the right direction because nobody stays the same, you get better or you get worse. Our goal is to get better because we know our conference is getting more competitive each year."
One of the incoming freshmen hoping to contribute to the three-time Southern Athletic Association champions is former Trion running back Hagen Willingham. He joins the Berry backfield after claiming All-State and Offensive Player of the Year honors during his career.
Willingham led his team to the Class A Public Sweet 16 during his senior year and holds the single-season school record with 1,634 yards rushing. He’s also tied for the most touchdowns in a single season with 23.
Model product Matthew Syverson joins the Vikings as a kicker after competing in football, soccer and track in high school and claiming three All-Region honors and an All-Area nod as a senior. He led his team to two-straight state playoff appearances and won the kicking competition at the Georgia Elite Classic All-Star Game as a junior.
Former Rome High offensive lineman Carter Norton also joins the Vikings after concluding a storied career for the Wolves. The 6-foot-1, 240-pound guard helped Rome win a pair of state titles.
“We feel these young men entering our program will make us better on and off the field,” Kunczewski said in a release. “Our coaches continue to open up doors in areas that have been closed in the past in terms of recruiting. We are not only excited about the student-athletes coming in, but some of the great high schools that are on this list. For the class coming in, you will notice that our linemen are getting bigger which is vitally important for us to continue our success out on the field.”
Rounding out the local recruits is the Calhoun duo of Gavin Gray and Zack Fuller.
Gray, a quarterback, competed in three sports, was selected All-State and Offensive Player of the Year during his career, and led his team to four regional titles and a state championship.
Running back Fuller was a two-time All-County and All-Region selection, claiming All-State during his senior year. He also helped his team to a state title in 2017 while helping the Jackets to advance to the state playoffs all four years.
Berry has plenty of new players coming in from outside the area as well with Aaron Christopher looking to bolster the defense. The defensive linemen from Bowdon helped his team reach the state playoffs twice in his career and totaled 49.5 tackles and 6.5 sacks in his senior year.
Receiver Ryan Glass helped Dawson County reach the playoffs in all four seasons of his high school career and a region championship in his freshman year. In his time with the Tigers he racked up 73 receptions for 1,176 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The Vikings will open the season on the road against Maryville on Sept. 7.