ATLANTA — In exclusive voting by the head coaches of the Southern Athletic Association (SAA), Berry College’s head football coach, Tony Kunczewski, was named the league’s Coach-of-the-Year and senior defensive lineman, Mamadou Soumahoro, earned Defensive Player-of-the-Year honors, both for the second straight year. The duo headline a program-record 21 All-Conference selections.
Joining Kunczewski and Soumahoro, Mason Kinsey, Tristen Cline, Nick McGee, Trey Gregory, Tyler Bertolini, Brandon Palmer, Austin Haight and Kevin Grier earned first team recognition. Second team selections include Jacob Collins, Trey Ciresi, Jacob Bishop and Jonathan Fisher. David Haithcock, Michael Wenclawiak, Slade Dale, Austin Lowe, Bryson Lamboy, Justin Akin, Antonio White and Jackson Putnam rounded out Berry’s honorable mentions.
Kunczewski, now in his fifth season at the helm, continues to push the Berry football program to new heights. The Vikings secured their second consecutive SAA title this year after a perfect 10-0 season. Berry currently sits at 11-0 after defeating Huntingdon College in the opening round of the NCAA Playoffs last Saturday, also a program first. Under Coach K’s leadership, the Vikings led the SAA in nearly every defensive category during the regular season and shattered numerous program records on all sides of the ball. Berry also broke into the national spotlight for the first time this year, advancing to a No. 18 ranking in both the D3football.com and American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) polls. Kunczewski’s team placed a program-best three players on the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-District teams for their excellence in the classroom. Berry also earned five SAA Player of the Week honors this season and three D3football.com Team of the Week selections. Kunczewski’s team will travel to St. Thomas (Minn.) on Saturday to compete in the second round of the NCAA Playoffs.
Soumahoro, a native of Lawrenceville, Ga., continued his record-breaking pace from a season ago, finishing the regular season leading the SAA with 11.5 sacks. He currently sits at 13.5 sacks, 51 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles, making him one of the top defensive lineman in Division III. The four-time All-Conference selection anchors a defensive line that is ranked No. 5 in the nation with 62.9 rushing yards allowed per game and allow just 16.0 points per contest. Soumahoro holds every pass rushing record in Berry history with 37 career sacks and 48.5 tackles for a loss.
Kinsey, a sophomore wide receiver from Demorest, Ga., became the first wideout in Berry history to pass the 1,000 yard receiving mark for a single season after his 112 yard performance against Huntingdon. He also broke Berry single-season records with 15 receiving touchdowns (No. 7 in Division III), 67 catches and 6.09 receptions per game. He earns All-Conference honors for the first time in his career.
Cline, a senior tight end/h-back out of Snellville, Ga., earns his second All-SAA nod and his lone first team selection after a career season. Cline has 10 receptions for 196 yards and a score this year, but many of his contributions do not show up on the stat sheet. Also a premier special-teamer, Cline has a career-best 10 tackles on the year. He is a CoSIDA Academic All-District selection this year.
McGee, a junior offensive lineman from Evans, Ga., earns his first All-Conference nod after helping Berry to program records in nearly every offensive category this season. Having competed in just three games prior to this season, McGee and the rest of the Vikings offensive line led Berry to records in rushing yards (2,037), rushing touchdowns (18) and rushing yards per game (185.2). Keeping the Vikings’ quarterbacks upright, Berry also set a program record with just three interceptions thrown this season so far with a record 29 touchdown passes.
Gregory, a sophomore kicker from Griffin, Ga., has kicked his way to one of the top spots in Division III this year. He is currently ranked No. 2 in the country with a 92.3% field goal percentage (12-13) and set Berry records this year with 46 PAT kicks made, 12 field goals made and his field goal percentage.
Bertolini, a senior defensive lineman from Elijay, Ga., earns his first All-Conference nod after a career-best 33 tackles and six tackles for a loss. He also has a pair of sacks on the year, including a stop against Huntingdon to help Berry to their first ever NCAA playoff victory.
Palmer, a sophomore linebacker out of Columbus, Ga., has had a breakout season for the Vikings. After not competing in a game during his freshman year, he has racked up 35 tackles, six sacks, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble to help Berry become one of the top defensive units in Division III. Palmer has also collected 10.5 tackles for a loss en route to his first All-Conference selection.
Haight, a senior defensive back from Hoover, Ala., earns his third straight All-Conference selection but his lone first team nod of his career. He has tied the Berry record with three interceptions on the year and set career-highs with 42 tackles and 16 pass breakups.
Grier, a junior defensive back from Lilburn, Ga., earns his third straight All-Conference honor after collecting 37 tackles and six pass breakups on the year. He has also earned a career-best four tackles for a loss this season and one interception.
Collins, a sophomore running back from Savannah, Ga., earns his first All-Conference selection after setting the Berry single-season rushing yards record with 745 so far on the year. He is averaging 5.4 yards per carry and also has three scores.
Ciresi, a senior from Jacksonville, Fla., earns his fourth straight All-Conference nod after 690 receiving yards and 10 scores so far this season. The fifth-year man hauled in a big touchdown against Huntingdon to help Berry to the second round of the NCAA playoffs.
Bishop, a sophomore offensive lineman from Franklin, Ga., collects his first All-Conference honor of his career. Competing in 10 games this season, he also helped Berry’s offensive line push the offense to records in rushing yards (2,037), rushing touchdowns (18) and rushing yards per game (185.2).
Fisher, a senior linebacker out of Kennesaw, Ga., earns his first All-Conference selection after collecting 38 tackles and one interception on the year. Having his final season cut short after nine games due to injury, Fisher will graduate with one of the more impressive defensive resumes in Berry history, collecting 152 career tackles and 5.5 tackles for a loss.
Haithcock, a sophomore offensive lineman from Macon, Ga., is also in his first year starting for the Vikings offensive line. Competing in all 11 games, he also helped Berry to records in rushing yards (2,037), rushing touchdowns (18) and rushing yards per game (185.2).
Wenclawiak, a senior offensive lineman from Powder Springs, Ga., collects his first All-Conference honorable mention, competing in eight games this year. Also a CoSIDA Academic All-District selection, Wenclawiak anchored the Vikings’ offensive unit, helping the group to new heights along with his fellow offensive linemen.
Dale, a junior quarterback out of Ringgold, Ga., earns his first All-Conference nod of his career after a strong season under center. Orchestrating the best offensive season in Berry history, the junior set program records with eight rushing touchdowns, 20 passing touchdowns, a 61.9% completion percentage and 8.4 average yards per pass this year. In tandem with fellow quarterback Tate Adcock, Dale helped Berry set program records for total passing yards (2,493), passing touchdowns (29) and passing completions (179). The Vikings also set records for total rushing yards (2,037) and scores, of which Dale had 552 yards on the ground.
Lowe, a senior running back from Chatsworth, Ga., earns his second All-Conference selection after 503 rushing yards and four touchdowns on the year. A consistent, reliable back, Lowe has not put the ball on the ground at all this year, and averages 4.0 yards per touch. He had his best game of the season at Austin College, rushing for 102 yards and a score in the Vikings’ win.
Lamboy, a junior defensive lineman from Cave Springs, Ga., earns his first All-Conference honor after a career season. He has collected 17 tackles, four sacks and five tackles for a loss on the year. He also tipped a pass resulting in his first career interception against Rhodes early in the season.
Akin, a senior defensive lineman from Nicholson, Ga., also earns his first All-Conference nod after earning 15 tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception on the year. He has not missed a game since his freshman year, competing in 41 contests.
White, a senior defensive back from Loganville, Ga., collects his first All-SAA honor after a career season. Seeing action in all 11 games so far, he has earned 27 tackles, a forced fumble, two interceptions and a pair of pass breakups on the year.
Putnam, a senior defensive back from Dawsonville, Ga., is now a two-time All-Conference honoree, collecting 33 tackles on the year. He also has a tackle for a loss this season, two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
The Vikings are in action at St. Thomas this Saturday at 1:00 p.m. ET for the second round of the NCAA Division III playoffs.