Viera players surprised, but ultimately happy for departing Coach Mays

Hawks also express confidence in Smith as new head coach


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Over the years a number of Viera High football players have talked about looking to head coach Kevin Mays as a role model. So it was a sad day Thursday when Mays told the players he was leaving to become the athletic director at Tohopokeliga High in Osceola County.

VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala

The news that head football coach Kevin Mays is leaving the program after seven seasons was met with a mixture of surprise, sadness and appreciation by his players.

“It really hit me hard, but I’m really happy for him,” junior wide receiver Sean Atkins said. “I just love the guy. He’s been a role model for me.”

Mays, who went 50-27 during his time at Viera, turned the Hawks from a doormat into one that has won four straight district titles and went to the Class 7A state championship game in 2015.

He told the players Thursday he has accepted the athletic director position at Tohopokeliga High in Osceola County, which is scheduled to open next August.

“It was sad,” senior defensive end James Klaas said. “A lot of us cried. But it’s better for him and his family, so I understand completely 100 percent.”

Senior quarterback Tim DeMorat, who transferred to Viera from Merritt Island two years ago, had nothing but praise for Mays and the impact the coach has had on him.

“He’s meant everything (to me),” DeMorat said. “He’s the best coach I’ve ever had. Everything he taught me for two years, it was just awesome. I really appreciate everything he did for me and for what he taught me.

“I hope everything goes well for him at his new school. I hope everything goes great for him there.”

Some players, like junior cornerback Cortez Reid, found out about the move Thursday morning. Others, like senior kicker Trey Schaneville – who was a ball boy for the Hawks during Mays’ first year at Viera in 2011 – were told during a team meeting in the afternoon.

As sad as they were to see their head coach announce he was leaving, the players also expressed complete confidence in new head coach Derek Smith, who has served as Viera’s defensive coordinator.

“I think the program’s still going to be strong with Coach Smith as the coach,” Klaas said. “No matter what, Viera’s still going to be a winning school. Whether it’s with Coach Smith or Coach Mays, Viera High School’s going to ball out like we always do.”

Mike Degory, who was the Hawks’ offensive line coach this past season, will take over as the team’s new offensive coordinator.

Because lifelong friends Smith and Mays have similar coaching styles, and also because of Degory’s knowledge of the Hawks’ offensive system, the transition is expected to be a smooth one.

“Coach Smith is great,” DeMorat said. “He and Coach Mays are almost the same person. Him doing the defense and Coach Degory doing the offense, it will definitely pick up where Coach Mays left it.

“I think they’ll do great.”