Hawks ready to start building a ‘brotherhood’ for 2019 season


Viera High defensive tackle Jamari Lyons works his way through a drill on the first day of football practice for the 2019 season.


Derek Smith’s message to his Viera High football team on the first day of fall practice was pretty simple:

“The message was it’s not summer anymore,” Smith said. “It’s now about preparation to win a state championship. From this point forward, you’re preparing to beat your next opponent.”

Viera will host Liberty for its Kickoff Classic game on Aug. 16 at 7 p.m.

In the meantime, there is plenty of work to get done, both on the field and off. And as far as Viera’s players are concerned, they’re just happy that football is back.

“It feels good to be bonding with the team and becoming a family once again,” senior defensive lineman Cooper Davis said. “During summer workouts, you just don’t feel as together as you could because you’re not bleeding and sweating for each other. You’re just trying to make yourself better.

“This is when a brotherhood gets formed.”

The Hawks had just under 90 players on the field Monday’s first practice as the veteran players tried to show the new ones the ropes, and Smith tried to make sure everybody had their paperwork done and any equipment and locker room issues were handled.

“I think we had a rocky first day,” Davis said. “We had some younger kids who need to pick it up, but that comes with time. It’s the first practice of the year. We’ll get it.”

While every team starts the year with plenty of enthusiasm and high expectations, the Hawks have good reason to think they have what it takes to go far in 2019.

Returning junior Bryce Norton threw for more than 3,000 yards and rushed for more than 1,000 last season, becoming the first quarterback in the state to put up those kinds of numbers since Tim Tebow did it in 2005.

Davis leads a defensive line that includes Julius Barfield, Jackson Hatfield, Jamari Lyons and Tyler Cooley that could be the best in the county. And while the offensive line lost two big standouts in Gavin Lamp and Chris Murphy, there is plenty of talent there with returners like Andrew Hart, Brady Touzet and a now healthy Cooper Liston.

The Hawks took part in a camp at Jacksonville University in July and came away very happy with their results from six scrimmages.

“We walked away from JU with a defense playing exceptionally well, and the offense regaining their timing,” Smith said. “All the teams we played at JU were contenders last year, and we walked away the top team out of that JU camp.”

With a tough opening regular-season schedule that includes a game at Cocoa followed by home games against Centennial, Fort Dorchester (S.C.) and then Rockledge (after a bye week), the Hawks will certainly need to be playing well from the start.

That preparation, as Smith said, begins now.

And for Viera High players who probably had July 29 circled on their calendars for months, it was good to be back in action.

“I’ve been looking forward to this day for a while now,” Davis said. “Once you get out of workouts and you start putting your helmet and your pads on, it means something else.”