ATLANTA - In exclusive voting by the head coaches of the Southern Athletic Association (SAA), Berry head football coach Tony Kunczewski was named Coach-of-the-Year and junior defensive lineman Mamadou Soumahoro earned Defensive Player-of-the-Year honors. The duo headline a total of 17 Vikings named to the All-Conference teams.
Joining Kunczewski and Soumahoro, Trey Ciresi, Bernard Granville, Jr., Preston Stewart and Malcholm Graham earned first-team honors. Second-team selections include Chris Lilly, Trey Newton, Matt Farinella, Jordan Arnett and Kevin Grier. Tristen Cline, Avery Archer, Mitchell Blanchard, Tyler Bertolini, Alec Leeseberg, Anthony Batey and Austin Haight earned honorable mention recognition.
Kunczewski led the Vikings to an SAA championship and the best season in the program's young history. Under Coach K's leadership, the Vikings led the league in nearly every defensive category including points per game (20.2), rushing yards per game (66.6, ranked fifth in the nation), fumbles recovered (12, ranked top 25 in the nation), sacks (32), and defensive touchdowns (2). The Vikings earned nine SAA Player-of-the-Week honors this season as well as three D3football.com Team-of-the-Week members. Berry also had a CoSIDA Academic All-Region selection under Kunczewski's guidance in addition to a National Play-of-the-Week and a nomination for GEICO Play-of-the-Year. His initial recruiting class, who are seniors this season, joined only a handful of programs to bring home a conference title in just four years of existence.
Soumahoro, a defensive lineman from Lawrenceville, Ga., had one of the most impressive seasons in all of NCAA Division III. He finished the year leading the nation in solo sacks (15), added 47 tackles and 20 tackles for a loss this season, good enough for No. 10 in the nation. He broke the Berry College single-season sack record this year after a five tackle, two sack performance over then No. 22 Hendrix. Soumahoro forced five fumbles (No. 4 in the nation) and recovered four (No. 2 in the nation). He anchored the Vikings defense which led the SAA in points allowed per game (20.2), rushing yards per game (66.6, ranked No. 5 in the nation) and sacks (32). He also led the Vikings defense during the pivotal Centre game to a program-record nine sacks.
Ciresi, a senior wide receiver from Jacksonville, Fla., broke the Berry College single-season receiving touchdown record this year with 11 TDs and 22 for his career. Through week four, Ciresi led all of NCAA DIII with nine touchdown receptions and still ranks in the top 30. He finished the season ranked top three in the SAA in yards (975) and TDs (11). Ciresi had a monster game against Centre, catching five passes for 143 yards and a score.
Granville, a senior defensive lineman from Columbus, Ga., helped anchor Berry's defensive line by racking up 29 tackles and a career best 4.5 tackles for a loss. He also tallied 1.5 sacks en route to his first All-SAA first-team selection. Granville had strong performances in big games all year, racking up five tackles and a tackle-for-loss during Berry's win over then No. 22 Hendrix. He also tallied four tackles and a sack during the Vikings' 21-19 win over Centre to clinch the conference title.
Stewart, a senior linebacker from Atlanta, closed out his senior campaign with 38 tackles, five sacks (top 10 in the SAA) and seven tackles for a loss. He also recorded his first career interception in a crucial 34-33 win over Maryville to open the historic season. Stewart also played a pivotal role in clinching the SAA title, earning five tackles, two sacks and three tackles-for-a-loss during Berry's final game of the year.
Graham, a senior defensive back from Fayetteville, Ga., had career-highs across the board to close out his career. He racked up 43 tackles, three interceptions (top 10 in the SAA) and 10 pass breakups this year, helping the Vikings secondary become one of the top takeaway defenses in the league. He had a huge performance to open the season against Maryville, posting nine tackles en route to the Vikings' first win over the Scots.
Lilly, a senior wide receiver from Murfreesboro, Tenn., once again put in an impressive season for the Vikings in his senior campaign, racking up 468 yards and five TDs to help Berry to an SAA Championship. Lilly was a downfield threat all season, averaging 14.6 yards per catch, good enough for top ten in the SAA. His one-handed touchdown reception during Berry's record-setting 52-37 win over LaGrange earned a GEICO Play-of-the-Year nomination. Lilly put up 74 yards and three TD's in that game.
Newton, a senior offensive lineman from Augusta, Ga., helped anchor an offensive line that helped the Vikings to 175.0 rushing yards per game (4th in the SAA), 231.9 passing yards per game and 24 passing touchdowns. He also helped quarterback Slade Dale to the best season of his career, throwing for over 1,300 yards and ranking No. 5 in the SAA in rushing yards at 660.
Farinella, a senior linebacker from Jacksonville Beach, Fla., continued his stellar performance in 2016, racking up a team-best 63 tackles and five tackles for a loss during his senior campaign. He closes out his Berry career with 275 tackles and 20 tackles for a loss. Farinella had one of the best defensive performances of the year during Berry's 28-21 win over Chicago this season, racking up 13 tackles and a tackle for a loss in the win.
Arnett, a senior defensive back from Cumming, Ga., had one of the most memorable plays of the season, returning a blocked PAT 98 yards for two-points during Berry's 22-19 win over Millsaps. The play tied the game and sent it to overtime where the Vikings would eventually earn the win. He tallied career-highs in tackles (30), sacks (1), tackles for a loss (2.5) and interceptions (2).
Grier, a sophomore defensive back from Lilburn, Ga., posted a career-best 38 tackles for Berry this season in addition to two interceptions. He had a clutch game during Berry's opening victory over Maryville, totaling six tackled and a crucial interception to seal the win.
Cline, a junior tight end from Snellville, Ga., had an outstanding season for the Vikings, hauling in six catches for 93 yards and two crucial scores to help the Vikings to their best season yet. His 19-yard touchdown against Centre helped seal the conference title for Berry.
Archer, a senior offensive lineman from Sandersville, Ga., was outstanding on the Berry offensive line all year, helping the Berry offense average 175.0 rushing yards per game (4th in the SAA), 231.9 passing yards per game and 24 passing touchdowns. Archer's play helped Berry allow just 1.8 sacks per game.
Blanchard, a senior kicker/punter from Suwanee, Ga., managed to earn four SAA Special Teams Player-of-the-Week honors in addition to posting career-highs in punt average (40.4) and long (62) in just seven games. He placed 14 punts inside the opponent's 20-yard-line including several inside the 10 to help the Vikings defense to its best season to date. He holds nearly every punting record in the Vikings' young history. In addition to his punting duties Blanchard was clutch as a place-kicker this season for Berry. He nailed 7-13 field goals including a long of 42-yards and was 49-51 on extra-point attempts. He ranked No. 6 in the league in points (46) and No. 5 in field goals made.
Bertolini, a junior defensive lineman from Ellijay, Ga., had an outstanding year for the top-ranked defense in the SAA, posting a career-high 26 tackles while also adding 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for a loss. He posted six tackles and a tackle-for-a-loss during Berry's 38-12 win over Birmingham-Southern at home.
Leeseberg, a senior defensive lineman from Augusta, Ga., had a career season in 2016, posting career highs in tackles (31), sacks (1.5), and tackles for a loss (3.5). The defensive lineman also recovered a crucial fumble during the Vikings win over then No. 22 Hendrix.
Batey, a senior linebacker from Nashville, Tenn., had an outstanding year for the SAA's top defense, posting 43 tackles and career highs in sacks (3.5), tackles for a loss (5) and pass breakups (5). He had an outstanding game against Washington University this season, racking up nine tackles, one sack and 2.5 tackles for a loss.
Haight, a junior defensive back from Hoover, Ala., had a solid defensive year posting 29 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and one interception from the defensive back position. He also forced and recovered a fumble during the pivotal Centre game. Also playing a major role on special teams, Haight averaged 27.0 yards per kickoff return for Berry.
For a list of the full 2016 SAA Football All-Conference teams, go here.