Vik­ings hold on for win, SAA ti­tle

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL SPORTS - RN-T Sports Writer

Berry Col­lege head f oot­ball coach Tony Kunczewski re­mem­bers ev­ery step the pro­gram has made in its five-year his­tory. He re­mem­bers the first touch­down, the first win, the first game and the first win­ning sea­son.

All along t he way, Kunczewski knew mo­ments like Satur­day were pos­si­ble.

The Vik­ings re­lied on a fourth quar­ter Ma­son Kin­sey touch­down catch to grind out a 24-21 win over Trin­ity in a South­ern Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion matchup Satur­day at Val­halla and win the SAA cham­pi­onship out­right while com­plet­ing its first 10-0 sea­son in pro­gram his­tory.

“When climb­ing the moun­tain, don’t think about t he moun­tain, j ust keep climb­ing,” Kunczewski said. “It’s been a long climb, and there’s been peaks and val­leys, but our guys have just done a great job of fo­cus­ing on the task at hand.”

Kin­sey led the team with eight catches for 100 yards and two touch­downs in the reg­u­lar sea­son f i nale, while quar­ter­back Slade Dale had 188 to­tal yards and two scores. Tate Ad­cock, shar­ing time with Dale at quar­ter­back, led the team with 128 yards pass­ing.

Af­ter the Vik­ings (10-0, 8-0 SAA) took the lead in the fourth, Trin­ity drove into the red zone and had an op­por­tu­nity to tie or take the lead. But a pair of sacks from de­fen­sive line­man Ma­madou Souma­horo pushed the Tigers back, and kicker Colby Doyal missed a 40-yarder with 8:30 to go.

Berry didn’t give its op­po­nents an­other chance, milk­ing the clock in a 16play drive that fea­tured three third-down con­ver­sions. It was the per­fect fin­ish­ing touch on the kind of team foot­ball the Vik­ings have played all sea­son.

“None of it was flashy, but in the end we had more points than the other team and that’s what mat­tered,” Kunczewski said. “And that was just a clinic on how to fin­ish a game in the fourth quar­ter.”

It was Berry’s spe­cial teams that first rose to the oc­ca­sion Satur­day as An­to­nio White Jr. blocked Trin­ity’s first punt of the game and Der­rell Mims took it in for a touch­down.

The Vik­ings had trou­ble get­ting the of­fense mov­ing, so Ad­cock was brought into the game and t hrew a 27- yard touch­down pass to Kin­sey in the sec­ond. Mean­while, Trin­ity’s hurry-up of­fense led to a pair of touch­downs in the sec­ond to tie the game at half­time.

The Tigers (6-4, 5-3) kept mo­men­tum rolling to be­gin the sec­ond half, scor­ing a touch­down to take a 21- 14 lead. But Berry made a field goal and forced a three- and- out to get back in po­si­tion to take the lead.

And the lead would come on one of the best plays of the day — an ac­ro­batic one-armed catch from Kin­sey on a fade route. The 5-yard catch also gave Kin­sey the sin­gle-sea­son record for re­ceiv­ing yards in a sea­son with 976.

“Slade went to me and I tried to use two arms but my man kind of pulled my right arm back,” Kin­sey said. “I just tried to pin it with my left hand and chest and keep it com­ing down.”

The Vik­ings will wait and see who and where they will be for the first round of the NCAA Di­vi­sion III play­offs when the se­lec­tion show hap­pens tonight. There is a chance Berry could be cho­sen in the top 16 and host next week’s game.

What­ever the case, the Vik­ings are go­ing to take in this vic­tory and all the work the pro­gram has done since the be­gin­ning.

“We’ve just grown so much through the years,” Se­nior re­ceiver Trey Ciresi said. “And through that growth we now feel we can beat any­body. We’ve had a mind­set through­out ev­ery year I’ve been here, and it’s go­ing to get passed on.”

On its fi­nal pos­ses­sion, Vir­ginia Tech con­verted a pair of fourth-down plays and faced thir­dand-1 at the Ge­or­gia Tech 32 with plenty of time to deal the home team an­other tough loss.

But, on a day when he made a num­ber of cu­ri­ous de­ci­sions, Vir­ginia Tech coach Justin Fuente called a pair of passes rather than run­ning for the first down.

Both were in­com­plete, in­clud­ing a deep pass down t he mid­dle f or Cam Phillips that Kerr knocked away.

“We got the best matchup we could pos­si­bly get,” Fuente said. “That was as good a look as we were go­ing to get.”

The Yel­low Jackets rushed for 261 yards, led by KirVonte Ben­son with 86 yards on 22 car­ries.

Nathan Cot­trell had a 69- yard run, set­ting up Ge­or­gia Tech’s first touch­down, a 3-yard run by Mar­shall. The quar­ter­back also punched it over from the 1.

Ge­or­gia Tech ap­peared to be driv­ing for a clinch­ing touch­down late in the third quar­ter.

But a chop-block penalty against cen­ter Kenny Cooper knocked the Yel­low Jackets back 15 yards, and Brenton King missed a 43- yard field goal at­tempt.

The Hok­ies took ad­van­tage — with a big help­ing hand from Ge­or­gia Tech.

On third- and- 14, Josh Jack­son threw a pass into heavy cov­er­age.

A.J. Gray and La­mont Sim­mons both had a shot at pick­ing it off, but wound up tip­ping the ball to Eric Kumah for a 26-yard com­ple­tion — eerily sim­i­lar to a play that led to a 25-24 loss to Mi­ami.

Jalen Hol­ston’s 8-yard touch­down run on the fi­nal play of the third quar­ter brought the Hok­ies within 21-16.

A cou­ple of ques­tion­able de­ci­sions by Fuente cost Vir­ginia Tech cru­cial points in the first half.

Trail­ing 7-3 in the sec­ond quar­ter, the Vir­ginia Tech de­cided to go for it on fourth-and-2 at the 8, in­stead of tak­ing a chip-shot field. Backup quar­ter­back AJ Bush at­tempted to run right, spun back to the left and was thrown for a 3-yard loss.

Later in the pe­riod, af­ter Sean Savoy scored on a 14-yard run to pull the Hok­ies within 14- 9, Fuente passed on the ex­tra point and strangely de­cided to go for a 2-point con­ver­sion.

Again, Vir­ginia Tech was stopped, leav­ing Ge­or­gia Tech with a 14-9 half­time lead.

“I didn’t feel like we were go­ing to have tons of op­por­tu­ni­ties to score,” Fuente said.

Vir­ginia Tech: Re­turns home to face ACC ri­val Pitt on Satur­day.

Ge­or­gia Tech: Hits the road for its fi­nal con­fer­ence game against Duke.

Berry quar­ter­back Slade Dale (5) stiff arms Trin­ity’s Sam Hi­no­josa as he rolls right dur­ing Satur­day’s game.

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