• John Macon Gillespie

Berry Excited For Return To Fortius Project

Excitement surrounding the North Pontotoc football program is at a fever pitch following a 10-win season in 2016. The Vikings accomplished a major team goal as they went undefeated in division play and claimed the region 4-3A crown.

Part of that excitement, though, is linked to a new head coach being hired in March. Andy Crotwell comes to Ecru from Caledonia, where he was the head coach the previous four seasons. Crotwell replaces Brian Sutton, who was masterful in leading the Vikings, as he has taken over the North Pontotoc principal position.

Though Crotwell is known for his offensive prowess, he will be working without Zay Cullens. Over the past few seasons Cullens has blossomed as do-it-all star for the Vikings and will play college ball at the university of Memphis.

Enter rising senior Jaquez Berry. Similar to Cullens, and rising senior quarterback Clark Mills, Berry’s talents are versatile. He stars for the Vikings in more than just football. However, the gridiron is where Berry will have the biggest shoes to fill in 2017.

Last season Berry caught 17 passes and seven of them were for touchdowns. He tallied 497 receiving yards, while taking a few carries and even recording an interception.

“Coach Crotwell told me that he wants to try me at different spots on offense,” Berry told SES Mississippi. “I’m not really sure what all that means yet. I’ll just have to wait until spring practice to see.”

“You better believe I’m going to give it all I’ve got.”

Speaking of spring practice, Berry feels that will be an especially important time for the Vikings this year. Each year there is an emphasis on spring football at the high school level. With a new coach that is intensified.

“I like him so far,” Berry said of his new coach. “I think he’s a great coach. Especially once he learns us and we get to know him better this spring.”

Last fall the Vikings were able to rely heavily at times on the running ability of Cullens out of the backfield. However, the offense was equally dangerous when the defense was spread out and Mills was able to hit open receivers running downfield.

Based on the strengths of the returning talent, including Berry, and the track record of Crotwell, expect more of the passing attack from North Pontotoc this fall.

“My speed, ability to get open and catch the ball, and getting up field,” Berry listed when asked about the skills that can make him a go-to guy this season.

“With Zay gone, it makes me realize I have to step my game up and set higher goals for this season. I have to get better mentally and physically.”

Based on Berry’s all-combine performance at the Fortius Project back on February 25th at ICC, it would appear he’s already begun to step up his game.

His talents were on full display all day long as he challenged a group of talented defensive backs. It was his speed and ability to play the ball in the air that helped him stand out. Even after being recognized as a top performer, though, he sees areas to improve.

“Honestly, I don’t think I put enough effort into what I was doing,” He explained. “But I feel like the 7-on-7 stood out to me.”

Later this month Berry is set to make his return to the Fortius Project as it stops at Northeast Mississippi community college. Expect to see Berry in a higher gear this time around.

“Even though I wasn’t too happy with my last performance, you will see a different side of me this time. My whole offensive game will be better,” He stated.

“I’ve been working on running my routes to get comfortable with them. And doing 1-on-1s with my brother Demarcus Rogers, who is attending the camp, too.”

April 22nd is the day Rogers and Berry will get to show just how much their work has paid off.

“I’m excited about this camp,” Berry stated.

#JohnLukeMcCord #NorthPontotoc

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