Defense dominates as Hawks shutout Centennial for first win
Viera High defensive lineman Cooper Davis celebrates after a big play during Thursday nights game against Centennial. Viera's defense dominated the game as the Hawks won 24-0 for their first win of the season.
VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala
This one was all about the defense.
A week after a frustrating opening-game loss, the Viera Hawks bounced back with a 24-0 victory over visiting Centennial Thursday night in a game that was moved up a day due to the threat of Hurricane Dorian.
Linebacker D’Andre Lewis returned an interception for a 39-yard touchdown, defensive back Zak Sedaros had a fumble recovery, and Danny Steen intercepted a tipped pass for the Hawks, who also got a dominating performance from their defensive line.
Running back T.J. Johnson scored on a pair of touchdown runs and sophomore quarterback C.J. Simms did a nice job filling in for an injured Bryce Norton as the Hawks improved to 1-1 on the season.
“I think the scoreboard speaks for itself. The defense pitched a shutout,” Viera senior defensive lineman Cooper Davis said. “We really came together this game. Not too many big mistakes. We still have to work on the little things as every team does.
“But we’re coming together. We’re gelling as a family all of a sudden.”
After the Hawks committed nine personal fouls in a season-opening loss to Cocoa, Viera coach Derek Smith vowed he would improve the team’s level of discipline starting with Monday’s practice.
While the offense still had too many penalties for Smith’s liking, there was no question about the defensive side of the ball.
With Jamari Lyons and Jackson Hatfield controlling the middle and Davis, JuJu Barfield and Tyler Cooley charging in from the outside, the defense prevented Centennial (1-1) from being able to put together any sustainable drives.
“This week, there was a lot of talking about gelling as a family, bonding more,” Davis said. “We did get disciplined. We ran. We ran some. But it was for the better. It kind of gelled us.”
From the game’s early moments, when Jalen Housey made a nice hit to break up a Centennial pass attempt and Lyons created all kinds of trouble by coming up the middle to pressure the quarterback, the Hawks seemed in control.
And unlike last week, when Cocoa put on a second-half burst with 17 unanswered points, it was the Hawks who put up 10 points in the fourth quarter to pull away.
“The defense played well,” Smith said. “I think the difference for the defense from last week to this week is last week, when we became tired in the fourth quarter, we kind of freelanced a little bit and Cocoa’s quarterback (D.J. Arroyo) did a great job taking advantage of the freelancing.
“This week, we stayed disciplined defensively. We didn’t freelance and their quarterback was unable to take advantage of it in the fourth quarter when we were tired.”
Viera’s defensive play allowed the Hawks to get some great field position – several times at or near the Centennial 30-yard line -- which they had a hard time capitalizing on in large part to a number of penalties that pushed them back.
Johnson scored on a 2-yard run on the game’s first drive, but the Hawks wouldn’t score an offensive touchdown again until the fourth quarter, when Johnson scored from a yard out.
“Offensively, we’ve just got to quit shooting ourselves in the foot with penalties,” Smith said. “I mean, we’re probably the most penalized team in the state of Florida. We’re getting 10-15 penalties a game. We’ve just got to stop it.”
In addition to Johnson’s two touchdown runs, and the 39-yard interception return by Lewis, the Hawks also got a 38-yard field goal from Nick Decker.
With Norton expected to miss several weeks while recovering from a knee injury, Simms stepped in and looked comfortable running the Viera offense.
“We asked him, ‘just don’t lose the football game,’” Smith said. “We didn’t want him to win a football game. We wanted him to not lose a game. Manage it, don’t lose it.
“He managed the game well.”