by Adekale Ande, Campus Carrier Assistant Sports Editor
This year’s football team finished the season at the top of the Southern Athletic Association (SAA) in almost every defensive category.
The Vikings led the SAA in allowed points per game (20.2), rushing yards per game (66.6, 5th in Division III), and sacks (32).
Junior Mamadou Soumahoro had an important role throughout this historical season.
Soumahoro, a defensive lineman, led this year’s defense.
He was named SAA Defensive Player of the Year for his record breaking level of play. He was one the top defensive standouts in all of Division III football and was a nominee for the Division III defensive player of the year as well.
Soumahoro led the nation in solo sacks with 15, forced five fumbles (No. 4 in the nation) and recovered four fumbles (No. 2 in the nation). He even returned two of his recovered fumbles for touchdowns.
He recorded 20 tackles for loss, with 47 tackles total on the season.
“Mamadou is pretty special. First of all, he’s a very humble guy to begin with,” Head Coach Tony Kunczewski said. “He has a unique combination of size, speed, strength and he’s quite the athlete.”
Berry has never had a big football culture, mainly because they didn’t have a team until four years ago. But Berry just finished its best season yet. The team finished tied for first in SAA conference with a 9-1 record in only the fourth year of the program’s history.
This team has been nurtured under Kunczewki’s tutelage for the past year and they haven’t looked back since. Under Kunczewski, the Vikings are 18- 21 but have increased the wins each season.
“It was a fitting end to the guys who helped start this program four years ago,” Kunczewski said. “To see them go from 0-9, to 2-8, to 7-3, then 9-1 and now they’re conference champions; it’s amazing. “
This 2016-2017 team was one for the records books, having 17 Vikings named to an All-Conference team. Berry has now been to the top of the mountain, but Kunczewski says the hunger for the next challenge is already present in the players minds.
“We want to build off of this; it’s not easy in our conference because there are so many good programs in our conference in football,” Kunczewski said. “Our motivation now every year is to win a conference championship.”
With graduation this year the Vikings will be losing 34 seniors, it is now up to the next class to step up and continue to perform on the field. There are definitely some huge shoes to fill, but the Vikings are up for the challenge.
“We feel like we have a lot of talent returning,” Kunczewski said. “We need guys to step up and fill the leadership void because talent can only take you so far.”
With Soumahoro returning next year to lead the defense, there is high excitement to see what he will accomplish.