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Berry gearing up for second football season

Berry College is gearing up for its second football season.
Berry College is gearing up for its second football season.
Photos and collage by Todd DeFeo

Berry College returns to the gridiron on Thursday to open its 2014 summer practice schedule, and the Vikings return 66 players and welcome the addition of 42 recruits.

The Vikings open their sophomore season with a challenge on Sept. 6 when they travel to Maryville. The Scots are projected to repeat as USA South Conference champions and played the role of spoiler in 2013 in Berry’s first-ever football game.

Berry finished its inaugural season of play with a 1-9 record. The Vikings are scheduled to play its 2014 home games at Barron Stadium in downtown Rome, Ga., a few miles from campus; a new on-campus stadium is set to open for the 2015 season.

“Our first four games, three of them are conference champions,” Coach Tony Kunczewski said in an interview this week. “And, it’s not like it gets easier come game five because Centre has traditionally been a very strong program. Our schedule doesn’t lend itself to having any easy games.”

While the Vikings’ offense gelled during spring practices, a high priority on the agenda leading up to the Sept. 6 opener is determining the starting quarterback. The Vikings started three quarterbacks in 2013 when the team struggled to put points on the board.

“I think we made great strides this spring. Part of the thing that I think held us back, and we just had to work through, was we started three quarterbacks,” Kunczewski said. “We’ve got to decide on one. That picture is becoming more clear.”

Dale Jackson, who completed 26 of 64 passes and tossed three interceptions and a touchdown in 2013, heads into practice taking snaps with the first team. But, that doesn’t mean the starter slot has been solidified; also in the mix are Adam Sandin, who started six games in 2013, and a pair of incoming freshmen.

“We’re going to come out of camp with a definitive No. 1 guy,” Kunczewski said.

Also projected to be key pieces for the Vikings in 2014 are punter Mitchell Blanchard and wide receiver Chris Lilly; both received Southern Athletic Association football all-conference honors following the 2013 season. On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Anthony Batey, who was named to the SAA’s second team, looks to continue his role as a leader.