Hawks win easily, still have work to do before opener
T.J. Johnson ran for three touchdowns as the Viera Hawks beat the Liberty Chargers 35-0 in their Kickoff Classic Friday night
VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala
The Viera Hawks got big plays on both sides of the ball in Friday night’s 35-0 Kickoff Classic win over Liberty.
Running back T.J. Johnson ran for three touchdowns, Zak Sedaros had two interceptions – including one he returned 97 yards for a score – and defensive tackles Jamari Lyons and Jackson Hatfield dominated the line of scrimmage.
But it wouldn’t be a Kickoff Classic if Viera didn’t have some things to work on before Friday’s season opener against Cocoa.
“Like I told these guys, the sign of a great program vs. a good program … a great program is going to walk away with criticism even after a big win,” Viera High coach Derek Smith said. “It doesn’t mean we don’t love our kids. What it means is we’re going to find a way to correct every aspect of our football team, and we’re going to continue to correct our football team.
“Because until you’re at the end, the last team standing, you haven’t reached your goal yet.”
There were times Friday night, especially early on, when the Hawks played just like the field conditions – sloppy.
Liberty was able to complete several long passes and broke off a few nice runs when it looked like the runner was about to be stopped for a loss. Offensively, the passing game didn’t quite click, and there were some costly penalties, but the running game certainly looked strong.
“Overall, I think we played well,” Sedaros said. “We had a couple of errors here and there that we can fix. But overall, I thought we played solid.”
Just prior to Sedaros’ big pick six, the Viera defense missed several other opportunities to pick off a Liberty pass. Sedaros, who had dropped one earlier, was just hoping to get another chance.
“I was definitely frustrated with myself on the first one,” he said. “It was bad. I was mad at myself. But you can’t stay mad. You’ve got to shake it off. You’ve got to move on. That’s what I did.”
Up front, Lyons and Hatfield were particularly disruptive with both making several tackles in the backfield. And with Cooper Davis and JuJu Barfield providing pressure off the edges, the Chargers from Liberty had a tough time sustaining their offense.
Danny Steen had a fumble recovery for Viera, and also scored the game’s first touchdown on a 3-yard run.
Quarterback Bryce Norton also had several nice runs, but the Hawks’ passing game will need to step up more in order to beat a team like Cocoa.
For much of the night, it was all Johnson and the Viera offensive line. The sophomore running back ripped off touchdown runs of 76, 53 and 6 yards as the Hawks really got their ground game going behind an offensive line that included Andrew Hart, Cooper Liston, Brady Touzet, Tyler Matas, Colben Maher and Justin Humphreys – with occasional help from Lyons and Davis.
“We started off rough in the first half,” Johnson said. “We had to pick it up. … I had a good game. I couldn’t do it without (my offensive line). Minus a few errors, we would have had more points on the board.”
Johnson, who joined the varsity as a freshman late last season, is feeling much more confident heading into his sophomore season. He certainly showed it Friday night.
“Coming up as a freshman, I was a little nervous,” Johnson said. “But they believed just like I believed. That’s how I think of it. Coming up as a sophomore and starting, it’s a good feeling. … I’m a lot more confident in my O-line.”
The Viera roster lists Johnson at only 5-foot-6, 150 pounds, but as Smith pointed out, anyone who sleeps on Viera’s sophomore running back could wind up watching break off big runs like he did Friday night.
“T.J. is an exciting young man, isn’t he?” Smith said. “He’s a tough kid. If anybody counts that kid out because he’s small, they don’t realize that, one, he’s put together like a Mack truck.
“Two, he’s got great vision. And he’s got a great heart. He’s not giving up on nothing.”