Hawks need to ‘come together’ after another tough loss


Viera High's Sean Atkins turns the corner -- with a little help from Dan Steen -- during Friday night's game in North Charleston, South Carolina. Atkins would score three touchdowns for Viera, but the Hawks would lose when Fort Dorchester scored the game-winning touchdown with under 30 seconds to play.


NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – History is chock full of stories about teams whose championship seasons began with adversity.

And after Friday night’s soul crushing 31-28 loss to the host Fort Dorchester Patriots, that’s the story the Viera Hawks are hoping they’ll be able to tell when it’s all said and done.

In control for much of the second half, and driving toward what could have been either a game-clinching score, or a least a clock-killing possession, the Hawks turned the ball over late and saw Fort Dorchester score with 22.7 seconds to snatch a hard-fought victory away from Viera.

“We let it get away,” Viera coach Derek Smith said. “We’re winning the football game with a minute-and-a-half left. A mistake was made. The defense … we didn’t hold up our end of the bargain in the last minute-and-a-half, either.

“What our football team needs to learn is that we’re not playing anybody on our schedule that’s not a state-caliber football team. This football team will contend for their state championship.

“We obviously played them down to the wire, which gives us the confidence to know we can play for a state championship.”

Driving up to South Carolina to play a Fort Dorchester team that is ranked No. 8 in the state by MaxPreps, the Hawks were hoping to give the Patriots a little taste of what Florida football is like.

Senior wide receiver Sean Atkins caught two touchdown passes from sophomore quarterback Bryce Norton and ran for another one. Norton also hit senior wide receiver Shamaar Mohr with a quick pass that the receiver turned into a touchdown.

Viera’s defense, which had trouble with a huge Fort Dorchester offensive line in the first half, did a solid job of shutting down the Patriots’ offense in the second half until that final drive.

But just as in last week’s loss to Rockledge, mistakes – especially mental errors – are really hurting the Hawks right now.

Holding penalties. False start penalties. Personal fouls. And at the end of this one, an interception proved to be giant momentum killers all night.

Viera seniors Gavin Lamp and Garrett Kaminski both used the same phrase when talking about the loss:

“We’ve got to come together as a team.”

And they need to do it now.

“We’re this close,” Lamp said. “We’re so close. I could see the pain in everyone’s eyes. It’s a brutal sport. It’s a sport of team, not individuals.”

The Hawks certainly looked like a team ready to make a statement Friday night, taking the opening drive and getting a 20-yard run by Atkins to take a 7-0 lead.

Fort Dorchester, which featured a strong running game behind that big offensive line, would answer quickly to tie the score.

Viera would drive to the Patriots’ 8-yard line, but the Hawks would stall in large part because of two penalties – delay of game and a block-in-the-back call – that forced them to try a field goal that was no good.

Another penalty, this time a false start, looked like it would derail another Viera drive. That is, until the Hawks pulled a fake punt with Atkins hitting Kaminski for a first down at the Fort Dorchester 25.

Two plays later, Norton turned and threw to Mohr, who raced past the Patriots’ defense for a 25-yard touchdown that put Viera back on top.

Once again, Fort Dorchester would answer with a touchdown to tie things up only to see Viera push ahead again when Atkins turned a Norton pass into a 35-yard touchdown.

Suddenly, this game looked like it was going to turn into a shootout.

The Patriots answered with another touchdown of their own, but a bad snap on the PAT left Viera with a 21-20 lead.

Viera added to its lead just before the half, with the help of an interception by safety Quez Menyfield on a tipped pass.

Norton looked as if he were going to run it, then pulled up and hit Mohr for a 36-yard gain to the Fort Dorchester 16-yard line. Then, with 13.4 seconds remaining before halftime, Norton found Atkins down the middle of the field for a touchdown that put the Hawks up 28-20 at the half.

Fort Dorchester couldn’t seem to stop Viera’s passing game, and the Hawks had the momentum.

But the Hawks’ offense, which had been so effective in the first half, could not finish off drives in the second half. Viera turned more to its running game and penalties backed the Hawks up.

Still, the defense was keeping the Fort Dorchester offense in check. Even when the Patriots recovered a Viera fumble at the Hawks’ 27, they were limited to a field goal that made it 28-23.

It was still Viera’s game, and the Hawks had the ball and the chance to add to their lead with a third-down-and 7 at the Fort Dorchester 29-yard line when the Patriots intercepted the ball. It was initially returned for an 80-yard touchdown, but the play was called back on a penalty and Fort Dorchester took over at its own 43 with 1:54 to play.

The Patriots then did what championship teams do – they went right down the field for the game-winning score that gave them a big win in front of their home crowd.

“It came down to the wire,” Kaminski said. “We had them the entire game, but a few mental mistakes on both sides of the ball … just errors that shouldn’t be happening, that we’ve got to work on.

“If we fix those things, that’s a win for us.”

After the game, Smith and several members of his coaching staff could be seen giving a fiery speech to the team, which will have to get ready for another tough opponent next week in Kissimmee Osceola.

“We understand that this team is either on the verge of teetering, or becoming a great one,” Smith said.

The Viera High team that went to the state championship game in 2015 was 6-4 in the regular season.

And Smith also referenced something from his days as an assistant at Palm Bay High.

“I’m going to go back to this thought … one of the best teams Brevard County’s ever seen was that 2002 state championship (Palm Bay) Pirate team,” he said.

“People forget they started 0-2. First two games they lost, they were both similar situations like we had. They learned to come together after those two losses and became one of the greatest football teams Brevard County has ever seen. These guys have to know the same situation is upon them.

“They’ve just got to know it, believe in it.”