BERRY FOOTBALL: Vikings earn first win over Birmingham-Southern on Senior Day

November 6, 2016

For three years, Berry failed to win against Birmingham-Southern, one of just two conference opponents to fall under that category.

Playing in their final regular season home game Saturday, Berry’s seniors wanted to make sure that stat didn’t reach four games. Two quarters in, and any notion of that happening was erased.

The Vikings scored 31 points in the second quarter as a balanced offense and stifling defense led Berry to a 38-12 win over Birmingham-Southern. The second largest win in program history keeps Berry in the hunt for a Southern Athletic Association title.

“We read the Ralph Waldo Emerson line, ‘Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail,’” Berry head coach Tony Kunczewski said. “There was no path here, and our seniors had to go out on a limb and make a trail.”

Berry sophomore quarterback Slade Dale went 16-for-25 for 225 yards and three touchdowns despite playing a little more than a half.

Running backs Jacob Collins and Austin Lowe combined for 107 yards and a touchdown each.

Even more impressive was the Berry defense, which allowed the visiting Panthers only two completions in the first half and 3.5 yards per carry on the ground. Birmingham-Southern (1-9, 1-7 SAA) only had one play of more than 10 yards in the entire first half.

The defense featured seven seniors, all getting their last chance to beat BSC. Behind leaders like Anthony Batey and Matt Farinella, the Vikings (8-1, 6-1 SAA) were locked in from the opening snap.

“They had some plays here and there in the first half, but we knew what we had to do,” Farinella said. “We focused on us and our game plan, and that ended up working for us.”

Berry only led 7-0 entering the second quarter, but that changed quickly. After Austin Lowe scored from a yard out, Berry immediately recovered a muffed kickoff return and scored on a 7-yard run from Jacob Collins only a minute later.

After a Birmingham-Southern punt, Chris Lilly made an acrobatic grab in the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown pass to go up 28-0. Then, just before halftime, Dale found Methus Weldon for a 23-yard touchdown strike, putting Berry up 38.

Trey Ciresi, Weldon and Lilly — a trio of senior receivers — combined for 178 receiving yards and one touchdown catch each. It was a welcoming sign for a Berry offense that had not broken 30 points for four straight games.

“The last couple weeks we haven’t made the big plays we’ve made at the beginning of the season,” Kunczewski said. “We worked hard this week in practice in making explosive plays, and we made that happen today.”

The Panthers dominated time of possession in the second half and got on the board with an 18-yard pass from Kerrigan Pennington to Daniel Lopera in the third. They added another touchdown with 2:04 left in the game.

On its final drive, Berry brought in senior quarterback Dale Jackson to run the offense. For the final play, the Vikings got every senior that had not played in victory formation to seal the win.

“We can say that every single senior in our program got a chance to play and be out on the field there,” Kunczewski said. “That’s all we can ask for.”

The Vikings finish their regular season with a trip to Danville, Kentucky to play Centre. With a win and a Washington University loss to Chicago next week, Berry will win the SAA.