Viera football players eager to step into new, bigger roles


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Rising senior linebacker Dan Steen is ready to step into a bigger leadership role for the Hawks

CARL KOTALA

It’s the way of life for all high school teams regardless of sport.

Players graduate. New players come in. And others, well, it’s their chance to step up into bigger roles.

That’s the way it will be for the Viera High School football team, which is coming off a year in which it reached the regional semifinals and just graduated a number of high-impact seniors, including a couple of record-breaking receivers.

So, who will step into new, or bigger roles for the Hawks in 2019?

“On the defensive side of the ball, I expect a humongous year out of (defensive linemen) Julius Barfield and Jackson Hatfield,” Viera coach Derek Smith said. “I think those two guys went a little unnoticed last year, and I think they’re going to have phenomenal years combined with Cooper Davis and Jamari Lyons.

“Zak Sedaros is going to do a great job leading our secondary. He’s doing a great job in a leadership role. The team has picked him as a captain. And Danny Steen right now is filling a void at linebacker. I’m very excited to see what he’s going to do during the season.”

Steen, who was more of a situational starter for the Hawks last season, is now the most experienced returner in the Viera linebacking corp. He was impressive in Viera’s 21-16 spring game victory against West Orange, along with transfer D’andre Lewis.

“I knew after (last) season, I had to step up and I had to be a leader,” Steen said. “So, in practice, I started working extra hard, running extra hard and doing extra things so I could be a leader. I went in to see coach, asking questions so I could learn the defense (better) so I could help other people who need to learn the defense.”

Steen is well aware of the big shoes he needs to fill.

“Oh yeah,” he said after the West Orange game. “Trust me, Hunter Lee was no joke. Bear Bollinger was no joke. Brandon Mays (who graduated two years ago) was really good. They’re hard shoes to fill, but all I have to do is trust my reads, trust what coach is telling me and we pulled through with the win.”

One of the biggest question marks about the 2019 team will be how well it can replace skill players such as receivers Sean Atkins and Shamaar Mohr. But the guys Viera will be counting on next season don’t seem to be lacking in speed, and they certainly have talent.

“On the offensive side of the football, (wide receiver) Jeremiah Housey is maturing tremendously,” Smith said. “I think he’s going to be an exciting playmaker for us. His brother (running back Jalen Housey) is going to be a really good running back for us also. Between him and TJ (Johnson), it’s going to be a nice little one-two punch.

“The receiving corps, everyone’s asking how we’re going to replace Sean and Shamaar, I think (Jeremiah) Housey and (Davis) Mallinger are going to fill those two roles pretty well.”

Mallinger, who transferred to Viera following the 2018 season, had quite a spring game debut, scoring on a 5-yard run and catching a 12-yard touchdown pass. It would seem Viera’s offense, with multiple receiver sets, fits Mallinger’s game more than the run-heavy offense he previously played in.

“I like this offense because we spread the ball around,” Mallinger said. “I get the ball now in the open field and can do what I’m good at.”

In addition to being a vertical threat, Mallinger wants to be a leader on the Hawks once he gets a firm grasp on everything the Hawks are doing. And if the West Orange game was an indication, he’ll be a big hitter in Viera’s secondary as well.

“He’s got this moxie like he just likes to hit,” Smith said. “I like it. He brings a little attitude to the defense.”