Featured photo: Benedict head football coach Chennis Berry talks with his team ahead of their on-campus media day. TRACY GLANTZ firstname.lastname@example.org
The Benedict College football team had a 5-5 record in Chennis Berry’s first full season as head coach. After dissecting the Tigers’ 2021 campaign, he and the assistant coaches went to work. Berry and the staff set out to visit every high school in South Carolina, something the group did prior to its first season of competition as well. “Our staff did an amazing job,” Berry said. “We wanted to make sure we did a good job recruiting the state of South Carolina. We tried to hit every school in the state. That’s very, very important because we know there are some very good football players in this state.
“We signed 30 players to join our program, and 25 were from South Carolina.” Benedict has also made an investment. The program’s offices and weight room have gone through a major upgrade, while Charles W. Johnson Stadium is one of the best in the country for a small college.
“Building a program is also about your facilities,” Berry said. “It’s an arms race when it comes to recruiting. When we bring kids into Benedict College, we want to show them what we have and we feel we have something special. “A lot of time (when the parents) saw what we had to offer, the upgrades to our weight room, the upgrades to our coaches offices, our locker room, the upgrades to all our facilities … we wanted to make sure they understood the mission. At the end of the day we want to win championships, but we really want to win souls. We want to make sure we have young men that are serious about chasing A’s and B’s in the classroom.” Berry also hit the transfer portal in an attempt to strengthen his squad.
One of the athletes Berry signed was quarterback John Lampley. The two were together when Berry coached at Southern University. “John Lampley is in our master’s of business administration program,” said Berry. “He has done an awesome job in displaying leadership capabilities.”
Since enrolling as a graduate student, Lampley has been in a battle with junior Eric Phoenix for the starting job. Phoenix started seven games a year ago, completing 137 of 210 passes for 1,891 yards and 12 touchdowns. “It’s definitely been intense,” Lampley said of the quarterback battle. “We’ve been at it pretty much all summer. He has good days. I have good days. Ultimately, we just want to make each other better.”
Lampley has been able to quickly catch on to the offense because of its many similarities to the one employed at Southern when Berry was the offensive coordinator. Phoenix, a junior, has enjoyed the quarterback competition and believes the team will be much improved over last season. “We’re just out there competing, doing our thing and letting the coaches decide,” Phoenix said. “We’ve made a lot of improvements on both sides of the ball. All of us have gotten better and we’re starting to see the results from what we did in the offseason.”
The Tigers open the season Saturday when Elizabeth City State comes to town. Benedict was 2-4 last year in Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference games. Berry was hired in February 2020. What was supposed to be his inaugural season was canceled during the COVID pandemic.
“For the first time since I’ve been here, we’ve been able to have 60 kids during the summer,” Berry said. “I think that brought us together as a team. “We signed multiple transfers at different positions with a chance to come and compete,” Berry said. “They’ve done that. We’re super excited about the young men we’ve brought to the program, not only the high school signees, but the transfers as well. “We have some amazing young men who have bought into this program in more ways than one. I’m really excited about the football team we have assembled.”
BENEDICT COLLEGE FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Sept. 3: vs. Elizabeth State, 6 p.m.
Sept. 10: at Lane, 2 p.m.
Sept. 15 (Thurs): vs. Savannah State, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 24: vs. Kentucky State, 6 p.m.
Oct. 1: at Fort Valley State, 2 p.m.
Oct. 8: vs. Miles, 2 p.m.
Oct. 15: at Albany State
Oct. 22: at Morehouse, 2 p.m.
Oct. 29: vs. Clark Atlanta, 2 p.m.
Nov. 5: at Allen, 1 p.m.