Berry Academy needed every bit of the cushion its big first half provided.
The Cardinals raced to a 30-point halftime lead and held off West Charlotte 36-26 in a nonconference football game at Jack Martin Stadium. Berry Academy (2-2) had its advantage cut to 30-26 with 2 minutes, 46 seconds left, but Cardinals running back Malik Brown provided the final margin with a 25-yard scoring run, his third touchdown of the game.
“We’re a young team and if we put together a first half and a second half together, then we’ll be fine,” Berry coach Andrew Howard said. “Until then, we’ve got to keep coaching them to that point.”
Berry Academy didn’t lack for offensive firepower, with quarterback Kiante Cotton passing for 153 yards on 8 of 13 attempts and rushing for 38 more. Receiver Michael Roberts piled up 136 yards and a pair of scores on five receptions and Brown ran for 101 yards on 16 second-half carries. He finished with 137 yards on 28 attempts.
West Charlotte (2-2) didn’t buckle in the second half. The Lions’ pulled to within four points on a 64-yard touchdown pass from Ron Gant to Dirk Cureton. Berry recovered the onside kick, however, and Brown’s dash around right end sealed the win.
Roberts caught five passes for 124 yards and a pair of scores in the first half as the Cardinals grabbed a 30-0 lead at the break.
Berry used a balanced offense to keep West Charlotte off balance, rolling up 224 yards before intermission, with Cotton accounting for 138 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 5-of-7 passing and 47 yards on seven carries. Brown added 35 yards and a couple of scoring runs for Berry, which piled up 13 first downs compared to West Charlotte’s four.
“Coming off the bye week, the boys came out slow and lethargic,” Lions coach Mo Collins said. “It’s our mission to play smart, physical football and we didn’t do it in any phase of the game in the first half.”
Gant, who was promoted to starter, provided a spark in the passing game, hitting 10 of 18 passes for 211 yards and four touchdowns.