Hawks come up empty in second half, lose to Rockledge


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Viera High quarterback Bryce Norton escapes a Rockledge defender and prepares to throw downfield during Friday night's non-district game at McLarty Stadium. The Hawks had three opportunities to score in the second half and came up empty on the way to a 26-21 loss.

VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala

Mistakes at any point in the game will get you frustrated.

Mistakes in the red zone … those will get you beat.

And that’s what happened to the Viera Hawks Friday night as they failed to capitalize on several second half scoring opportunities and lost to a very determined Rockledge High team, 26-21, in the season opener at McLarty Stadium.

Bad snaps, costly penalties, inexperienced decision making and a dropped pass all plagued the Hawks on this night, along with the hard and determined running of Rockledge running backs Jalen Mitchell and Ladarius Tennison.

“Let me give credit where credit’s due,” Viera coach Derek Smith said. “The Tennison kid … he’s proven to me that he’s a force to be reckoned with in Brevard County. He made big plays on both sides of the football when it was time to make big plays. He did it all night.

“We made a couple of crucial mistakes in crunch time and their big-time player made a big-time play when it was time. It’s that simple.”

After a back-and-forth first half that saw Viera gain some momentum with a late touchdown to cut the Rockledge lead to five, the Hawks opened the second half with a 44-yard run by Jalen Housey to the Rockledge 16-yard line.

However, instead of going in for the go-ahead scored, the Hawks went backwards. A bad snap and a sack pushed the ball back to the 30 and were followed by the ultimate drive killer – an interception.

Only the hustle of Viera’s Jordy Emmons saved a touchdown, but Rockledge still had the ball at the Viera 21-yard line.

Viera’s defense, which struggled to stop Rockledge’s running game throughout the first half, stood tall and stopped the Raiders on a fourth down at the Hawks’ 15-yard line.

On the next drive, Viera got a brilliant ad-lib play from sophomore quarterback Bryce Norton, who started to his right, scrambled left and found a wide open Shamaar Mohr down the sideline for a 51-yard gain to the Rockledge 26.

The Hawks would get as close as the 10-yard line, but after an incomplete third-down pass from the Raiders’ 11, Viera went for it on fourth down. Norton’s pass into the end zone went through the hands of a receiver and the Hawks turned the ball over on downs just before the end of the third quarter.

But the drama didn’t end there.

After the teams traded punts, the Hawks desperately needed another big stand by its defense. Rockledge, however, would come up with several big first downs before a sack by Viera’s Cooper Davis forced a Raiders punt with 3:26 remaining.

Back-to-back passes to Emmons brought the ball to the Rockledge 34 and a 14-yard pass to Sean Atkins put the Hawks on the 20 with under two minutes to play.

Viera would get to the Rockledge 17, but on a third down play that saw Norton scramble for a first down, a questionable holding penalty on the Hawks would push them all the way back to the Raiders’ 30. And after two long passes into the right corner of the end zone fell incomplete, the latter with just 38 seconds remaining, Viera turned the ball over on downs and Rockledge was able to break a five-game losing streak to the Hawks.

The Hawks, meanwhile, were left to lament the mistakes they made throughout the night.

“We got down there and we had a snap over the head,” Smith said. “We got down there and had a 15-yard penalty. We got down there and had a 10-yard penalty.

“We got down there and had a pick. That’s four major mistakes in the red zone.”

It was just that kind of night for Viera, which led off the game for the second week in a row with an unsuccessful pooch kick that gave their opponent excellent field position to start the game.

Rockledge would score two first quarter touchdowns to take a 12-0 lead – one with the help of an interception by the Raiders defense.

Viera would answer with a 16-yard touchdown run by Atkins to make it 12-7 and the Hawks would get the ball back on a Davis fumble recovery at midfield just before the end of the quarter.

Jalen Housey, who had a breakout night at running back for Viera, had several nice runs and Atkins caught a couple of passes and the Hawks were at the Rockledge 19. Another bad snap, however, coupled with a holding call would back Viera up once again.

But just when it looked like the Hawks would come up empty, Norton found Jeremiah Housey for a 36-yard touchdown pass. A bad snap on the extra-point left Viera with a 13-12 lead.

That advantage didn’t last long.

Rockledge came right back and, with the help of an unsportsmanlike penalty on Viera, took the lead right back.

Another bad snap spoiled the Hawks’ ensuing drive and Rockledge scored once more to go up 26-13 with 3:04 left in the half.

Viera was forced to punt again and the Raiders took the ball over at their own 15 with roughly 90 seconds left before the break. As well as the Raiders had been running the ball, they figured to keep it on the ground and head to the locker room.

Instead, they tried throwing the ball from their own 15 and the pass was tipped and intercepted by Viera’s Kei’Shawne Cooper at the Rockledge 8. Two plays later – and after another penalty – Norton hit Mohr with a 14-yard touchdown pass. And after Norton scored on a two-point try, it was 26-21 after two quarters.

The Hawks certainly had their chances in the second half, but were done in by their own mistakes – including holding onto the ball too long – and the Raiders who made the big plays when they had to.

Viera will now head to South Carolina to play Fort Dorchester in a game the Hawks have been looking forward to for months.