Centre struggles with familiar challenge at Berry

Published 3:39 pm Tuesday, September 26, 2017


Centre College and Berry College are two of the top football teams in the Southern Athletic Association.

The pair met Saturday in Georgia in a game that could have playoff implications.

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But like last year, it was Berry who came out on top. The Colonels matched Berry in nearly every aspect but turnovers, eventually falling 28-14.

“They played well,” Centre head coach Andy Frye said of Berry. “I’m not going to take anything away from them, but you’re not going to win many games when you turn the ball over four times, and they didn’t turn the ball over.”

Turnovers started early for Centre, with quarterback Devin Hayes throwing an interception on the Colonels’ first drive.

Berry’s first drive just before that was a six-play, 72 yarder that finished with a touchdown.

Centre would find paydirt in the first quarter when Hayes hit Boyle County graduate Mack Cox on a 10-yard touchdown pass, tying the game at 7-7.

The two teams would share punts for the remainder of the half.

“I thought defensively, we played very well,” Frye said. “We played well enough to win. Offensively, we shot ourselves in the foot a lot of times when we started getting momentum and getting some drives going. A penalty here, a dropped ball. I bet we dropped five passes that we usually catch, that was out of character. It was a good atmosphere, we just came up short.”

Centre’s defense was up to the task for a majority of the game: Berry’s offense finished with 18 first downs compared to Centre’s 17 and finished with 328 yards of total offense to Centres 282.

Frye said he didn’t think the atmosphere got to his team.

“They’ve played there now for three years and they’ve only lost one game, and that was to us,” Frye said. “But I don’t make a deal out of that, I think the atmosphere was a great college evening. It was a great crowd, a hard-fought game … Everything was about even except for turnovers. You can’t turn the ball over, that’s the biggest thing. Along with penalties, those killed drive.”

Berry would score on its first drive of the second half, a 14-play, 77-yard drive capped by a 18-yard pass. Neither team scored for the remainder of the third quarter.

Centre had momentum at the start of the fourth quarter, killing an eight-play Berry drive and earning a first down. But a fumble gave Berry the ball back on its own 29 yard line, and two plays later the score was 21-7.

Hayes threw his second interception of the game on the next drive, but the Colonels’ defense made a stop. Hayes would find Austin Hayes for a 17-yard touchdown to make the score 21-14 with 3 minutes, 34 seconds remaining, but the ensuing onside kick was recovered by Berry. Another two-play touchdown drive, followed by an interception, secured the game for the hosts.

Frye again praised his defense — led again by Andrew Busby’s eight tackles — for their performance.

“Andrew had another great game, played hard,” Frye said. “J.D. Dotson played well. I thought our front played well, our defensive line. Zach Berger had a good game, I think Ryan Smith played well. I was pleased with our front. (Berry) got two deep balls on us and hats off to them. We had them covered, they just made great catches. Normally that’s what we do, we didn’t do that this week.

“They were better than us this Saturday. Do I think they’re better than us? No. Both teams are talented, but Saturday they played better than we did.”

One bright spot for the Colonels was freshman punter Jake Holloway. Berry’s defense kept the Colonels deep in their own territory, but Holloway’s seven punts averaging 45 yards helped Centre get out of danger.

“Our punting was so much better,” Frye said. “We averaged 45 yards per punt, and I was concerned about that going into the game. We had poor field position, I’ve got to give Berry credit, they kept us pinned. I bet we had two or three drives that had to start inside the 10. We were able to get out, but we couldn’t finish. Our punting got us out. I think that was a bright spot.”

The Colonels have a bye week this week and Frye said he’ll be focusing on getting mistakes cleaned up and getting his team back to 100 percent.

“We’ve got to heal up. We’ve played two of the best teams in the conference back-to-back, so we’re sore,” Frye said. “I think that’s a big thing, heal up, reboot. We’ve got six games left and we’ve got to take them one at a time. There’s only been one undefeated football team in nine years, and that was us. So it’s going to take a lot for them to be undefeated. They could do it, but it’s going to be hard. We’ve got to stay with what we’ve got to do, do it well and let the chips fall where they may.”