Hawks make big statement with 47-17 playoff victory over Martin County
Viera High's Malek Folston looks for running room during Friday night's Class 7A regional semifinal against Martin County. The Hawks won the game 47-17 to reach the regional finals against Lakeland.
VIERA VVOICE Carl Kotala
All right class, today’s nature lesson is … Don’t poke a Hawk. Especially when you’re going to be visiting its nest.
Oh, and since we’re talking, don’t make any big Thanksgiving Day plans, either. There is still work to be done.
Viera’s 47-17 victory over Martin County in the Class 7A regional semifinals Friday night puts the Hawks one step away from a trip to the Final Four.
Viera (8-4) will host Lakeland (9-2), a 21-11 winner over Plant, in the Class 7A regional final next week.
“It’ll be exciting,” Viera coach Kevin Mays said. “Even at the parent meeting (at the beginning of the season) we said if we’re not playing Thanksgiving weekend, it wasn’t a successful season.
“We’re here. We’ll go from there and see what happens.”
It was a charged up Hawks team that took the field against Martin County Friday night.
Angered by what they perceived as slights on social media and online referencing not only Friday night’s game, but also Viera’s 17-14 win over Martin County earlier this year, the Hawks came out as focused as they have ever been this season.
“It was pretty much a new attitude,” Viera safety Jamyson Boyd said. “We came in this morning and the coaches were even hyped about the game. They’re usually trying to keep us (calmed) down, keep us humble about the game, but once (Martin County) got on social media, talking and everything, thinking they gave us the (last) game, we just had to come out and prove a point, show them that we can really come out and play football.”
The Hawks didn’t waste any time, scoring on the game’s first drive as Hayden Kingston hit Alex Cabrera with a 24-yard touchdown pass.
As the packed house at Hawk Stadium was still digesting that score, Viera’s Trevor Merritt came up with a huge play, stepping in front of a pass by Martin County freshman quarterback George Johnson and racing 20 yards with his interception for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead for the Hawks.
“We’ve been breaking down film all week,” Merritt said. “I was playing a different position today. I was playing as kind of a nickel back/linebacker and (my coach) just told me to read the quarterback.
“I read him and … right on the money.”
Things would start to get a little chippy between the two teams after Kingston scored on a 3-yard run to make it 20-0.
After Martin County would get a field goal, Viera answered with a Boyd 4-yard touchdown run, a 23-yard touchdown pass from Kingston to Cabrera and a 1-yard run by Merritt that was set up by a 26-yard completion to Tre Nixon.
Viera was up 40-3 at the half, which meant the final two quarters would be played with a running clock.
Talk about proving a point.
Brennen Deplancke would add a 25-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and the Hawks pulled most of their starters.
Martin County would score a couple of late touchdowns, but after a fight nearly broke out following a PAT attempt, Martin County coach Chuck Kenyon did a classy thing, asking for a meeting between Mays and the officials to prevent anything further from happening. The meeting effectively wiped out the final four minutes of the game
In fact, the players were in line shaking hands and there was still officially more than a minute left in the game.
“(Kenyon) is a stand-up guy doing that,” Mays said. “He was worried about us moving on, wanted to see our district do well.”
Viera certainly appears to have everything clicking as it moves on to the next round.
In addition to Merritt’s interception, Malek Folston had a pick in the end zone and recovered a fumble. Will Champion also had an interception.
Kingston, who came into the game having thrown for 3,045 yards and 33 touchdowns, completed 15 of 22 passes for 201 yards and the two scores. He has thrown at least one TD pass in every single game this year.
“It’s amazing watching my offense,” Boyd said. “Hayden sits back there … he’s comfortable now and the offensive line is giving him great protection. At the beginning of the year, they were still getting used to our new (offensive line coach Mike) Degory, but now they’re feeding into his system and everybody’s working hard. Everybody’s doing good.
“Keep it up. If both sides of the ball are working hard, we’ll come out on top.”
In their four games since the bye week, the Hawks have outscored opponents 186-37 and all four games have ended with a running clock.
Viera will get a major step up in class next week against Lakeland, but the Hawks appear to be stepping up their game in a big way, too.
They’ve won the first two playoff games in school history and in the regional final.
‘It’s feeling amazing right now,” Boyd said. “I’m pretty shocked we’re still here, but hey, we’re ready to ball. We’ve just got to compete,”