Hawks lose Class 7A state title game, but players have memories to last a lifetime


Published:

The Viera Hawks pose with their Class 7A state runner-up trophy. Pictured (from l-r) are Hayden Kingston, Tre Nixon, coach Kevin Mays, Jamyson Boyd and Trevor Merritt.

VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala

ORLANDO – Jamyson Boyd thought he would be angry if he and his Viera High teammates didn’t win the state football championship.

But after the Hawks lost to St. Thomas Aquinas 45-10 in the Class 7A title game at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, the Viera High senior climbed into the stands to greet his family and had a big grin on his face

“I’ve got to (smile), man, it’s my last high school game,” the senior safety said. “We lost, but hey, I still fought ‘till the end. My team still fought ‘till the end. Nobody gave up.”

For every smile, there were glassy eyes and far-away stares, too. After all, coming so close to a goal and not being able to obtain it … hurts.

But it was more than that. Friday night was the last time this group of players will ever be together on the same field again. That realization might have hurt even more.

“It didn’t really hit me that my final ride with these seniors was done until that final whistle blew,” sophomore linebacker Brandon Mays said. “I got emotional then, because I’m going to miss a lot of these guys.

“They’ve been role models. They’ve been great friends … really, like big brothers.”

Senior wide receiver Tre Nixon, who will soon be announcing which major Division I college he will be playing for next season, had a mixture of sadness and pride.

After all, who but the Hawks themselves thought they would ever get here. Viera went 6-4 in the regular season, then beat Harmony, Martin County, Lakeland and Columbia just to get to the Citrus Bowl.

“It’s bittersweet,” Nixon said. “I’m kind of sad because this is my last game playing high school ball. I’m just proud of the way we came out and played. We knew the kind of team St. Thomas was going to be. I’m just proud. Viera has a very bright future.”

Viera’s run to the state title game captured the attention of the entire community. More than 1,000 people showed up for a rally the night before the game. Over the course of the past two weeks, the players got a chance to visit with children from Manatee and Quest, Viera Charter and other local schools. They even got a chance, on their way up to Lake City, to stop off at the University of Florida and visit The Swamp.

All over town, local businesses put messages on their marquees, celebrating the Hawks’ success.

On Friday night, the Citrus Bowl was packed with fans.

And it was all because of the hard work the players put in, not only this past summer, but throughout their entire Viera High careers.

“I just want to thank everybody that needs to be thanked and show my appreciation to everybody who has made my four years here the best four of my life,” senior quarterback Hayden Kingston said. “Just making sure that some of my teammates know that, just because they don’t get the credit that they deserve that I still recognize all of the hard work that they put in.

“It’s been a pleasure to be part of this team and from all my past teammates that have graduated to all the ones that I’ll leave here once I graduate, I just want to thank every single one of them, along with the coaches.

“The past four years have been tremendous. Watching this program grow and watching this community grow around this football team has been truly amazing.”

As well as the Hawks played in their previous four playoff wins to get to the state title game were simply no match for a St. Thomas Aquinas team that won its ninth state championship and features a slew of Division I caliber players, including the sons of six former NFL players – Michael Irvin and Asante Samuel among them – along with the son of Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem and the nephew of four-time Pro Bowl receiver Isaac Bruce.

That’s a lot to overcome, especially when you’re not at the top of your game, and the Hawks clearly weren’t. Some players felt Viera came out flat. Others thought the Raiders were just too big and strong up front. But what it boiled down to is that the Hawks finally came up against an obstacle they couldn’t overcome.

“Hats off to St. Thomas,” Kingston said. “It’s a better football team. It’s hard to say you weren’t the best football team on the field, but you can’t hide from the truth. They deserve everything they got this year and congratulations to them.”

As the Raiders kept putting points on the board, the Hawks kept on playing.

Malek Folston intercepted a pass from St. Thomas quarterback – and Florida commit – Jake Allen at the end of the first half. Boyd also intercepted an Allen pass, injured his troublesome shoulder on the play … and came right back into the game.

Trey Schaneville kicked a 24-yard field goal. And just before the final whistle blew, Folston scored on a 1-yard touchdown run.

Afterward, Hawks coach Kevin Mays told his players to look around them, to soak it all in … the fact that they made it this far when no one thought they would.

“It’s awesome,” Mays said of his team’s run to the finals. “When this all started, I don’t think none of us knew where the ride would end. I don’t think none of us thought we’d get this far.

“These kids will always be able to say they played in a state championship game. There’s only two teams left and they’re one of them.”

Though the Hawks will be losing a number of talented seniors – Nixon, Trevor Merritt, Ian Hubbard, Folston, Kingston, Evan Cruz, Alex Cabrera, Boyd, Zack Blanch, Hunter Ulrich, Riley Morris, Matt Martorelli, Brian Pickles, Mike Brunotte, Zach Trantham, Alverto Austin, Bryan Hayden, Kyle Troiano, Immanuel Barrett, Jacob Reilly, Blake Hoover, JP Caglione, Tim Eyler, Mitchell Shafer and Zenan Bouie – there are also a lot of talented players coming back.

And it’s up to those guys to keep the Viera program moving forward, to make sure the days of going 1-9 like the Hawks did three years ago, are over.

“It’s on the underclassmen’s shoulders now,” junior Marco Foreman said. “We’ve got to continue the legacy that the seniors left for us.”

No matter how the end of the season was hitting them, as they watched the St. Thomas Aquinas players accept their championship medals, there was one thing Mays and all of his players could agree on.

This season has had its ups and its downs, but it’s been one hell of a ride.

One they wouldn’t have wanted to go on with anyone else but their teammates. It’s a ride they won’t forget for the rest of their lives.

They may have lost their last game, but as any member of the Hawks coaching staff would tell you, these guys are special. No scoreboard can take that away.

“It’s been great,” Nixon said. “These have been the best four years of my life. I’m so glad I came to this school. These guys are going to be my brothers for life. I love every one of these boys.”