Run­ning it back

Berry is look­ing for more as it pre­pares to get the 2017 season started.

Rome News-Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - Berry is look­ing for more this season.

A new ban­ner hangs at Val­halla, hon­or­ing the 2016 Berry Col­lege foot­ball team’s South­ern Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion cocham­pi­onship.

But as this season’s team prac­tices on the turf at Bob Wil­liams Field a few days be­fore the first game of the season, the ban­ner goes un­no­ticed.

While many of the play­ers prac­tic­ing Wed­nes­day evening were a part of that 9-1 season, this is a dif­fer­ent team with a dif­fer­ent feel. This year’s Vik­ings squad is look­ing to­ward the present and be­yond, ready to make its own mark in the school’s short but event­ful his­tory.

“They see that ban­ner and say, ‘ That’s not us.’ This is a new team and a new mis­sion.” Berry head coach Tony Kunczewski said. “We have an in­ter­est­ing mix of guys this season, so it’s go­ing to be fun to see how this team plays out.”

Berry be­gins its fifth season Satur­day when it trav­els to take on Maryville Col­lege, and ex­pec­ta­tions are cer­tainly up. The Vik­ings went 16-4 the last two sea­sons and fin­ished in the top three of the SAA stand­ings both years.

One dif­fer­ence be­tween those teams and this season is depth, as Kunczewski has seen more and more fresh­men step up. The pre­vi­ous two years have in­cluded se­niors and ju­niors who had been with the team since its first season.

Berry still has vet­eran lead­ers, with quar­ter­back Slade Dale, fifth year re­ceivers Trey Ciresi and Josh Bul­lock and run­ning back Austin Lowe. But be­ing able to see some com­pe­ti­tion in al­most ev­ery po­si­tion is some­thing Kunczewski wel­comes.

“There’s just a lot of skill from the fresh­man class, and a num­ber of guys are go­ing to be play­ing Satur­day and some might start,” Kunczewski said. “Hav­ing this new level of depth is some­thing we haven’t had a lot of, so we wel­come it.”

Un­for­tu­nately for those fresh- men, their first game is no pushover.

While Berry snuck out a 3433 win against Maryville last season, the Scots have won 31 games in the past four years and have gone 15-4 at home in that span.

The last time the Vik­ings vis­ited Maryville they lost 43- 17, and Kunczewski wants to make sure his team is com­pletely equipped for a phys­i­cal start

to the season.

“The im­por­tant thing in any game, but es­pe­cially road games, is tak­ing care of the ball and spe­cial teams,” Kuncze- wski said. “We’ve played in 10 one-score games in the last two years, and all of them usu­ally come down to a turnover or spe­cial teams play.”

What­ever the re­sult, Kunczewski trusts that his team is go­ing to move on and place sole fo­cus on its next op­po­nent. While this isn’t the 2016 team hang­ing on the ban­ner, the 2017 team is thank­ful those stan­dards have been es­tab­lished.

File, Steven Eck­hoff / RN-T

Berry run­ning back Austin Lowe and the Vik­ings open the 2017 season Satur­day at Maryville Col­lege in Ten­nessee.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.