Berry takes whirlwind approach to starting football

mlough@macon.comSeptember 20, 2013 

MercerFB

Running back Caleb Brown (24) and the Mercer Bears host their third game of the season Saturday against Berry, another first-year program.

JASON VORHEES — jvorhees@macon.com Buy Photo

Before his team’s first game a few weeks ago, Mercer head coach Bobby Lamb admitted he kept worrying about forgetting something.

But having 31 months from the date he was hired until his first game gave Lamb, as well as Mercer’s staff, plenty of time to work things out, and little went wrong on the day the Bears nipped Reinhardt 40-37 in a thriller.

Along the way, Berry College in Rome announced the start of football but went with a tighter timeline than Mercer ... by about a year.

Berry announced the addition of football in October of 2011, 11 months after Mercer and released details of a 500-seat stadium three months later.

Tony Kunczewski was named the head coach in April of 2012, with the first assistants coming aboard three months later, around the same time as the first schedule was announced. And the first kickoff was to be in 2013, roughly 22 months after the announcement.

So Berry visits Mercer on Saturday with its fall football feet still wet from spending the 2012 season getting things together while the Bears went through a routine that included everything but games.

“They’ve probably got some guys that need to develop because they didn’t have a practice year,” Lamb said. “They’re young. If it can be said right, they’re younger and greener than we are, which is pretty unbelievable.”

Berry, a Division III program, is 1-1. The Vikings opened with 37-0 loss at home to Maryville (Tenn.) and then beat LaGrange’s junior varsity 37-27.

Berry will have two homes this season. Barron Stadium in Rome is a 6,500-seat facility that also hosts Shorter and Rome high school football and track events. And Darlington School, a GHSA Class A school, is in south Rome.

Lamb said Berry runs a two-back offense, led by wideout Chris Lilly, a 6-foot, 166-pounder from Tennessee who has eight catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns.

“He’s a top-notch receiver,” Lamb said. “He’s probably the best player on the team.”

Linebackers Anthony Batey and Preston Stewart, each with 15 tackles, lead the team’s 3-4 defense.

Saturday will be something of a homecoming for a few Vikings: defensive back Ryan McCallie of Mount de Sales, defensive back Jeremy Pinkston of John Milledge, offensive lineman Kyle Gasper and wideout Will Chomskis of Vidalia and defensive lineman Avery Archer of Washington County.

Mercer is basically healthy, having given pretty much everybody in a uniform some playing time in last week’s 61-0 win over Warner.

The Bears have had a 100-yard rusher in both games so far, thanks in part to an improving group up front.

Brett Steverson, Wilson Heres, Kirby Southard, Avery White and Mitch Payne have paved the way for Payton Usher and JeTarri Donald to crack 100 yards.

“Our offensive line has really jelled together,” Lamb said. “We’ve found five guys up there that have really played well.”

While Berry doesn’t have much experience, Lamb knows a few things to expect.

“One thing that you’ll get out of them is you’ll get great effort,” he said. “And you’ll get guys that are lined up in the right spot. So you’ll have to execute on offense and defense.”

Mercer’s opponents

Reinhardt: 1-2, vs. Lindsey Wilson

Warner: 0-3, at Jacksonville

Berry: 0-2, at Mercer

Drake: 0-2, vs. Indianapolis

San Diego: 1-1, vs. Harvard

Valparaiso: 0-3, idle

Carnegie-Mellon: 1-1, at Catholic (Friday night)

Campbell: 1-2, idle

Davidson: 0-2, at Johnson C. Smith

Jacksonville: 1-2: vs. Warner

Marist: 1-2, idle

Stetson: 1-1, vs. Birmingham Southern

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