Viera rally falls short in 40-35 loss to Pirates


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Viera High sophomore Quinton Richard tries to break away from several Palm Bay High defenders during Friday night's non-district game. The Hawks fell behind 28-7 at the half and then staged a second-half rally only to fall short in a 40-35 loss.

VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala

Another wild finish. Another tough loss.

The scenario that seems to be repeating itself in big, non-district games for the Viera High football team is becoming a troubling sign.

Sure, the Hawks once again showed plenty of fight in rallying from a 21-point deficit before falling to visiting Palm Bay 40-35 when receiver Alex Cabrera was downed just inside the 10-yard line on the game’s final play.

It’s how they played early on, however, that concerned head coach Kevin Mays.

“We can’t continuously keep putting ourselves in a hole, fight back … we’ve got to learn how to win a big game,” Mays said. “You can’t get down to a good team like Palm Bay 28-7 and expect to come back and win. We’ve got to figure it out.”

The Pirates (5-1), who have now won five in a row, made big play after big play Friday night and were clearly the more focused team from start to finish.

Running back Brian Lankford-Johnson continually hurt the Hawks with his big-time speed while Jared Morris was a problem for Viera early on.

After failing to take advantage of a fumbled punt by Palm Bay, the Hawks got on the scoreboard first when Brennen Deplancke broke into the end zone on a 7-yard run.

However, Palm Bay would answer right back by marching down the field to tie the score on a Morris TD run.

It was one of four first-half touchdowns for the Pirates as Viera simply could not get its offense going. Even a fake punt attempt by the Hawks came up short.

A 50-yard scoring burst by Lankford-Johnson with 1:04 to play in the half proved to be a real dagger

“We played with a slow tempo,” Mays said. “We weren’t doing anything on offense or defense. The first half was probably the worst half of football we’ve played all year.”

Viera tried to turn things around in the third quarter as quarterback Hayden Kingston found Cabrera, who raced into score from 26 yards out and make it a 14-point game

Another Lankford-Johnson touchdown, this one from 15 yards out, put the Hawks back at the bottom of the hill, facing another long climb. The only saving grace for Viera was that it blocked the extra point.

After Viera moved back into scoring position, Kingston appeared to signal to the sideline that he wanted the ball. And sure enough, the quarterback kept the ball and powered into the end zone from the 3-yard line to make it a 34-21 game.

The defense, led by Marco Foreman, was able to put the clamps on the Pirates long enough so that the offense would get a chance to really make things interesting by closing the gap even more … which the Hawks did when Jamyson Boyd lined at quarterback and scored from three yards out.

With 10:54 remaining, Viera trailed 34-28 and seemed to have plenty of life.

But as they did all game, the Pirates matched the Hawks big play for big play. Lankford-Johnson broke free for a 64-yard scoring run. The Pirates’ two-point conversion attempt failed, and Palm Bay led by 12 points.

Kingston came back with a quick out to Tre Nixon, who sprinted past several defenders and took off for a 47-yard touchdown to make it 40-35 with 3:12 to play.

Palm Bay was eventually forced to turn the ball over on downs and Viera got the ball back at its own 20 with 36.5 seconds remaining and moved down the field, the big play being a 30-yard completion down the middle to Cabrera to the Palm Bay 25.

The ball was spiked with 7.8 seconds remaining.

Kingston looked for Nixon in the end zone, but he was covered heavily and the ball was tipped away. The game clock appeared to have expired and Palm Bay began to celebrate.

However, the officials put one second back on the clock and Viera would get one last shot. Kingston was pressured and chased out of the pocket. He threw on the run to Cabrera, who was immediately downed at the nine and this time, Palm Bay’s celebration was official.

The loss dropped the Hawks to 3-4 overall on the season, with three of those losses coming in games where the Hawks fell behind early, rallied late and came up short.

Does Mays wonder how his team will bounce back after yet another tough defeat?

“You’ve got to,” he said. “It’s tough. (Lakeland) Kathleen, we could have won. Cocoa, we could have won. And this game, we could have won. It’s tough. It’s tough. We’ve got to come back, get the tempo up and (go from there).”

Despite the tough loss, the Hawks don’t have to look far to find some good news. They’re still 1-0 in Class 7A, District 6 play and can secure a return trip to the postseason with a win on the road next week against Martin County, followed by a home district contest against South Fork.

When Mays scheduled such a tough none-district schedule for Viera, he did it in part so the team would have plenty of big-game experience when it came time for the postseason.

That plan is still in place, too.

“It don’t feel good now,” Mays said. “But hopefully, it helps out in the long run and I’ll feel better about things.”