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FOOTBALL: Berry’s defense shines against Hendrix as Vikings stay undefeated

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Time and again Saturday, Hendrix quarterback Miles Thompson dropped back to pass and was rushed into a panic. With a Berry player almost constantly in his face, the quarterback often had to choose between a dangerous throw and taking a sack.

That’s been the norm for the Berry defense the last three weeks, and it doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon.

The Vikings stymied a powerful Hendrix offense and turned it up in the second half for a 34-10 win over the Warriors at Valhalla. The victory keeps Berry as the only undefeated Southern Athletic Association team. It’s the third straight game Berry has won by more than 20 points and the third time in a row the defense has allowed only 10 points.

“We have certainly been on a roll, especially defensively,” Berry coach Tony Kunczewski said. “We have just consistently been able to get pressure on the line, and that always changes a game. We made them play a different game than they’re used to.”

Junior quarterback Slade Dale finished with 228 total yards and four touchdowns, two in the air and two rushing. Jacob Collins led the team with 103 yards rushing and Mason Kinsey had eight catches for 100 yards.

But it was the defense that shined all game long, especially in the first half when Berry (7-0, 4-0 SAA) struggled to finish drives. The Vikings didn’t force a turnover, but they completely eliminated the Hendrix run game as the road team finished with negative-8 rushing yards.

With one part of the Hendrix offense non-existent, Berry bottled up Thompson in the pass game on almost every drive. Mamadou Soumahoro led the defense with two sacks and four total tackles while Evan Breakspear led the team with seven tackles.

“We are always just going to rely on what we know,” Breakspear said. “When a bad play happens, we don’t dwell on it because we know how good we are, and we know we are going to come out on top.”

Berry got inside the Hendrix 30-yard line five times in the first half, but entered halftime with only a 13-0 lead.

And Hendrix (5-2, 3-2) struck in the second half, as Thompson found tight end Michael Spainhour on a 43-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to six.

Something then clicked with the Berry offense, as Dale went 4-for-4 for 49 yards on the next drive. He finished it up with a 3-yard touchdown run on third down to put Berry up 20-7, and the Vikings would lead by double digits the rest of the way.

After Hendrix made a field goal, Berry drove back down the field and scored again on a touchdown pass from Dale to Trey Ciresi.

A few plays later, Hendrix was stopped on an attempted fake punt. It took Dale only five plays to score again on another touchdown run, making it 34-10 early in the fourth.

“I can’t remember the last time I was that worried going into halftime, because I knew their offense was explosive,” Kunczewski said. “But we came back and made the plays we needed, we just executed like we knew we could.”

The Vikings hit the road next week to play Millsaps, which currently finds itself at .500 on the year. But Kunczewski wants the team as focused as ever, hoping the same work ethic can produce the same big wins he’s seen all season.

“We’ve never looked back. That’s how we’ve done things since year one,” Kunczewski said. “We aren’t going to dwell on anything because we know we still have plenty to play for.”