Late last spring, Berry head football coach Tony Kunczewski was looking for a team to fill an open date he had on his 2021 fall schedule.
He not only found one, but he found an opponent that can very easily be regarded as the toughest regular-season the Vikings have ever face – the No. 2-ranked Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks, the six-time NCAA Division III national champions who is perennially considered a favorite to add to their long list laurels.
The showdown has arrived when Berry, ranked No. 25 in the poll, takes the field in Whitewater’s 13,000-seat Perkins Stadium in Wisconsin on Saturday for a 1 p.m. kick-off in a game that will give the Vikings and Kunczewski the kind of challenge they want.
“We want to challenge ourselves, and in this game we will get a challenge,” the coach said as his team enters its third and final non-conference game with a 2-0 record. “Our mindset is that if you want to move the needle, and in this game you get to see what one of the best in the country is like.
“In order to grow, you’ve got to challenge yourself.”
The Vikings enter the game coming off a 34-21 road win a week ago topped LaGrange in a game that saw Berry break out to an impressive 31-0 halftime lead.
Highlighting the win offensively was an impressive ground game Berry put together, with three freshmen serving notice that they are ballcarriers to be wary of as the Vikings rolled up 301 rushing yards. Brandon Cade led the charge for Berry leading all ballcarriers with 96 yards on nine carries and scored a touchdown; Jackson Clouatre another 58 yards on just nine carries; and Josh Rogers rushed for 57 yards on eight carries and had a TD.
Junior quarterback Gavin Gray continued be a threat passing the ball as he completed 9 of 15 passes for 96 yards and a TD.
Defensively, the Vikings all but shut down LaGrange’s run game, giving up just 57 rushing yards while allowing under 200 passing yards.
“We saw a lot if improvement in all phases. We did a good job running the ball, cleared up thing on special teams and the defense continued to look good,” said Kunczewski, who pointed out the effort by Cade and Rogers and the holes opened up for them by the offensive line, the continuing output by linebacker Brock Skinner, and the improved outing by the special teams and punter/kicker Matthew Syverson.
This week, however, an even better performance in every facet of the game is required of the Vikings against the Warhawks, who solidified their lofty ranking last week when they handled then-No. 8 ranked Salisbury (Md.) with a 31-14 road win.
Leading Whitewater, which has appeared in 17 consecutive Division II playoffs, is senior quarterback Max Meylor, who last week completed 16 of 23 passes for 227 yards and four touchdowns, with his main target being senior wide receiver Ryan Wisneiwski, who caught five passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns. In the backfield for the Warhawks last week, senior Alex Peete had 18 carries for 86 yards and also had a TD catch
In its two games, Whitewater is averaging more than 38 points a game and a hefty 420 yards on offense, while its defense is allowing just 179 yards per game.
“Coach (Kevin) Bullis and his staff are very good,” Kunczewski said. “I have a lot of respect for him and their program.
“When you get to that level, there are no weaknesses,” he said. “The defense flies all over the field and they’re quick on offense and defense. They’re very talented, but extremely disciplined.”
“It’s one thing to get to the top; it’s another thing to stay at the top.”