Hawks lose game, learn a lot about themselves


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Jamyson Boyd works his way through traffic after making one of his six receptions on the night. Viera rallied from 21 points down to tie the score with under three minutes to play before Cocoa put together one last drive to beat the Hawks 49-42.

VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala

They traded blows with the No. 1 team in Brevard County and came up just short.

But there were so many things the Viera High Hawks could take from their 49-42 loss at Cocoa Friday night.

Quarterback Hayden Kingston threw for five touchdowns. Tre Nixon caught four of them. Defensive players were making huge impacts on the offensive side of the ball. Zack Blanch was back. Cocoa coach John Wilkinson even addressed the Hawks in their postgame huddle in the classiest of moves.

And if anyone ever questioned the heart and resiliency of this team, well … there was your answer.

So yes, once again, Cocoa proved what a championship-level team it is, driving 67 yards in the final moments to win the game on Bruce Judson’s 6-yard run with 14 seconds remaining.

But even though they lost an incredible back-and-forth contest, the Hawks proved a little something themselves Friday night in a game played before a packed house filled with emotional electricity.

“That was the best game I’ve ever been a part of,” Kingston said afterward. “I couldn’t be more proud of the guys sitting in that bus, and I couldn’t be more proud of the coaching staff and the trainers and the fans for coming out.

“You know, it really just shows how much Viera’s grown. This game isn’t about me. It isn’t about Tre. It’s not about anybody who gets a lot of notoriety around here. It’s truly about this entire football program and this entire town, rallying around this football team and playing games like this.”

The teams traded touchdowns in the first half, with Kingston hitting Nixon for TD throws of 24 and 45 yards to knot the score at 14-14 going into the break.

Then all heck broke loose.

Cocoa went up 28-14 on an 84-yard punt return by Chauncey Gardner and a 92-yard run by Judson – who was a game-time decision to even play after injuring his ribs two weeks ago.

Viera answered with an 18-yard Kingston-to-Nixon hookup and then appeared to grab the momentum when Austin Roberts recovered an onside kick. However, on the Hawks’ first play, the snap sailed over Kingston’s head.

Cocoa recovered at Viera’s 28 and the Tigers quickly cashed in as Timmy Pratt scored on a 2-yard run to go up by 14. Then, it was Cocoa’s turn to recover the kickoff and it was Pratt scoring once again – this time from 17 yards out – to make it 42-21 Cocoa with 8:32 to play in the third quarter.

It appeared, for all intents and purposes, that the Hawks were done.

Then, Kingston hit Nixon for a 16-yard touchdown pass. Trevor Merritt, seeing time on offense, scored on a 15-yard run. And with 2:45 to play, Kingston found Malek Folston for a 23-yard touchdown pass that tied it up at 42.

“The resilience of this team … I always kind of questioned, not to bad mouth anybody,” Kingston said. “But tonight, this team showed me it’s got something inside of them. When there’s something in front of them that they want, they’re going to go get it.

“I couldn’t be more proud to be part of this team, and a part of this school and a part of this town. I just love Viera.”

With the score tied and the emotion on Viera’s side, the game looked like it might be headed for overtime.

But just like champions do, the Tigers put together one last drive. In the huddle, Judson told his teammates to jump on his back and he would lead them downfield. He even came to the sideline and told Wilkinson he wanted the ball … just before driving his way into the end zone for the game-winning score

It was one of those games that, if you were there, you will still be talking about it for at least a couple of high school reunions.

With Alex Cabrera appearing to injure an ankle and Viera’s running game unable to gain traction, the Hawks turned to defensive players like Merritt, Folston and Jamyson Boyd.

Merritt and Folston scored touchdowns. Boyd caught six passes for 45 yards. And Blanch, who had not played all season because of a high ankle sprain, made his season debut with most of his action coming at linebacker.

“I’m as proud of my team as I’ve probably ever been,” Viera coach Kevin Mays said. “Cocoa had a strong surge and our guys fought right back. We took a punch and we punched back. We came up on the short end at the end.

“… (But) we’ve come a long way. I think we earned their respect tonight and we’ve obviously got respect for them. They’re a good team.”

Coaches address teams after games all the time. But how many times have you seen the opposing coach talking to a team after a game? Well, it happened Friday night as Wilkinson delivered a message to the Hawks.

“I just wanted to tell their team that we played them, it was 70-6, and how far they’ve come in seven years and what a great job their coaching staff does and how hard their kids play” Wilkinson said. “That’s a tribute to them and their coaching staff. I just wanted to let them know that.”

Viera (2-3) has played a lot of big games already this season, but the most important part of the Hawks’ schedule awaits. Three of the next four matchups are district games, including next week’s game at Melbourne.

“I’ll tell you this, the next half of our schedule is the important stuff,” Kingston said. “Three district games. I just want to go 3-0 in those and get to the playoffs and I feel if we can to the playoffs, we can play with anybody in this dang state.”