Down 23-20 with less than a minute to go in the fourth quarter, Berry was a mere 6 feet away from taking the lead over Birmingham-Southern.

The opportunity to avenge last season’s 13-point loss was well within reach. Sophomore quarterback Gavin Gray, already 18-of-39 for 320 and two touchdowns, made his last throw count.

Gray’s 2-yard strike to Cameron Kawa with 11 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter propelled the Berry Vikings (1-0) past the Birmingham-Southern Panthers (0-1) 26-23 Saturday in Alabama.

Gray’s final stat line appeared as 19-of-40 for 322 yards and three touchdowns.

Gray started his day with a 30-yard touchdown pass to Tarin Westbrook. Shortly following one of Matthew Syverson’s two field goals on the night, Gray connected with TJ Watkins on an 82-yard dart for the end zone, which put Berry in the lead at 17-3.

Birmingham-Southern rallied back, scoring two touchdowns to take a 23-20 edge after a blocked PAT attempt. But Berry would get the final word with the last-minute TD strike and journey back to Floyd County 1-0.

Defensively, Connor Cheyunski recorded nine tackles with one tackle-for-a-loss. Jack Carroll picked up six tackles and snagged an interception.

The Vikings return home and prepare for a battle Saturday against Rhodes College. Kickoff from Valhalla Stadium is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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