By Haiden Widener, Campus Carrier Sports Editor
|CONTRIBUTED BY BERRY FOOTBALL|
|The football team beat the Centre Colonels 21-19 in their last game of the season. The Vikings are sharing the conference title with the Washington University Bears, but bring home the first football conference championship in Berry history.|
Berry history was made this weekend as the Vikings clenched their first ever conference championship after defeating Centre College, 21-19. The Vikings will share the title with Washington University St. Louis, with both conference records ending 7-1.
With the football program only in its fourth year, the success this season cannot go unrecognized. The team’s record was 2-8 in 2014, and this year they finished 9-1.
The team was down 10-0 with less than two minutes left in the first half when junior Mamadou Soumahoro forced a fumble, recovered it, and then as he was being tackled, passed the ball up to junior Justin Akin for a huge gain.
“If he’s not an All-American, then I don’t know what an All-American looks like,” Head Coach Tony Kunczewski said of Soumahoro. “I’ve never seen live a better defensive single-game performance than what I saw from him on Saturday.”
This set the Vikings up for their first scoring drive of the game, the second coming just seconds later. They went into halftime leading 14-10.
“One thing we talked about before the Centre game was, you never know when that one play is going to be the decisive play of the game,” Kunczewski said. “I think Saturday bared that out when we were down 10-0, and we scored two touchdowns within 24 seconds.”
Going into the game on Saturday, Centre was 18-1 at home over the last four years, so the Vikings knew winning would not be easy.
“They (The Colonels) don’t lose at home,” Kunczewski said. “It’s a tough place to play, so we have a lot of respect for them and knew it was going to be a huge challenge. But I couldn’t have written a better script than to clench the conference championship and in the last two weeks of the season, beat the two teams that we’ve never beaten before in our conference.”
With the team not getting the at large bid into the Division III playoffs, their win at Centre ended their season. But their historical season will not soon be forgotten by anyone.
“We would’ve definitely liked to have that not be our last game of the season, but what a way to go out,” Kunczewski said.
Looking back on the season, the team had many moments that defined their character, not only individually, but also as a team.
The first game of the season, against Maryville, they were down two touchdowns at halftime, but they didn’t quit and beat the Scots 34-33 for the first time ever in Berry’s history.
During the University of Chicago game they were also down by two touchdowns at the half, coming back in the second half to win.
Hendrix was ranked number 22 in the country before the Vikings defeated them on the road.
Against Millsaps, the team was down 21-19 with only 2:47 left in the game. They blocked a field goal, returned it for two points, and won in overtime with a 43-yard field goal.
Centre was only the last in their line of memorable games this season, and with a large handful of seniors leaving the team this year, those special memories will last a lifetime.
“I think one of the things that attracted the seniors to join a start-up program was the ability to leave a legacy,” Kunczewski said. “And I believe that after their four years here on the field, they have.”