Hendrix’s defense did the Berry picking Saturday afternoon.
The Warriors used a safety and four interceptions to ignite an erratic offense on the way to a 30-17 victory over Berry College at Young-Wise Stadium.
It was the first Southern Athletic Association victory for the Warriors (3-3, 1-2). Berry, another startup program in the SAA, fell to 0-6, 0-3.
Although the Vikings had 23 first downs and 362 yards of offense, Hendrix added four sacks for 27 yards and a fumble recovery.
“We needed a victory on defense,” said Hendrix coach Buck Buchanan. “We can play good defense. We won the sudden-change situations. We were out of rhythm early on offense but thank God, the defense was playing their butts off. When one part of your game is a litte off, it’s good that another has your back.”
The biggest of several big plays from the Warrior defense occurred midway through the third quarter with Hendrix nursing a 16-14 lead. Berry drove to third-and-goal situation at the Hendrix 5, then Caleb Shannon maneuvered for an interception in the end zone as the Vikings’ Adam Sandin, seemingly with a clear path to run for a touchdown, forced a pass. It was Shannon’s second interception of the game.
The Warriors responded with their best drive of the afternoon, 80 yards in nine plays, to take a 23-14 lead on Dayton Winn’s 2-yard run with 2:38 left. Scrambles by backup quarterback Tanner Frye and a 20-yard pass to Travus McMahon set up the touchdown.
“It took us awhile to get in a rhythm and tempo on offense,” said Buchanan, whose team was penalized 14 times for 158 yards (including two out-of-bounds kickoffs). “We created our own pitfalls but I was proud of how we responded to our own pitfalls.”
The Hendrix had a hand in all the other scores.
With the Warrior offense producing only 33 yards of offense the first quarter, Stephen Spearman tackled Sandlin in the end zone for a safety to pull Hendrix within 7-2 with 4:15 left in the period.
Shannon’s 13-yard interception return to the Berry 9 set up Frye’s 4-yard pass to Taylor Tibbits that gave the Warriors a 9-76 lead early in the second quarter.
After Berry mixed its offense nicely and benefitted from a running-into-the kicker penalty to drive 78 yards in 12 plays, two sacks and a short punt led to a 47-yard scoring drive by the Warriors in the final minutes of the first half. McMahon made a superb catch of a pass from Frye at the Berry 5 on third-and-10, then Frye reverse his field and passed high in the corner of the end zone to Casey Caton who outjumped two defenders for the touchdown with 38 seconds left in the first half.
After a 25-yard field goal by Campbell Harrison drew Berry within 23-17 with 12:27 left in the game, the Warriors used a 41-yard pass from Frye to Caton on the way to a 75-yard, nine-play scoring drive for the clinching touchdown. Frye, who was 28 of 39 for 229 yards in his first college start, passed 9 yards to Winn for the score with 9:34 left.
Frye took over at quarterback for Hendrix total offense leader Seth Peters, who is out indefinitely with a knee injury. Peters watched the game on crutches from the sideline.
Winn, from Pea Ridge, rushed for 120 yards on 24 carries for the Warriors. Linebacker Ben Cunningham of Shreveport had 12 tackles.
“We made a lot of freshmen mistakes and they did, too,” said Buchanan. “We capitalized on a few more of their freshmen mistakes than they did on ours.”
The Warriors go on the road for the next two weekends, starting with Austin College in Sherman, Texas, on Saturday.