Viera struggles early, but rolls to 35-14 spring game win over Spruce Creek
Viera High players, including Gavin Lamp (center), react after the Hawks scored on a two-point conversion to tie their spring game against Spruce Creek Wednesday night. Viera would go on to win the game 35-14.
VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala
It was halftime of a game the Viera Hawks were trailing Spruce Creek 14-6 … and the offense was not looking particularly sharp.
So just as he had several times during the first half, running back Brennen Deplancke called the offensive unit together.
“We were nervous the whole first half. We didn’t come out strong,” Deplancke said. “I was like, ‘Guys, let’s just have some fun. Once we start winning, it’s fun. That’s football.
“And then we just got our confidence level way up there and we showed out. We came back."
They certainly did. In fact, the Hawks outscored Spruce Creek 29-0 in the second half to win Wednesday night’s spring game 35-14.
It was a good night in a lot of ways for the Hawks, who return a good core of players from the team that went to the Class 7A state championship game last season, but also have some big shoes to fill.
Outside of one touchdown drive – set up by a blocked punt – the Viera defense was as good as advertised. The Hawks didn’t let the Spruce Creek offense get any kind of rhythm and got some nice play from Brandon Mays, Miguel Rodriguez, Justin Harrison, Marco Foreman, Peyton Wallingford, Will Champion and Lance Reynolds, who opened the game with an interception.
“Defensively, I think we played very well besides that one series,” linebacker Brandon Mays said. “We knew we had a great defense coming in. We’ve just got to perform.”
Offensively, quarterbacks Sean Atkins and Seth Kennedy both struggled in the first half. They were both intercepted with one pick brought back 70 yards for a touchdown.
But both seemed more relaxed in the second as the Hawks’ up-tempo offense wore down the Spruce Creek defense to the point where several defenders were cramping up.
Receivers Travis Jones, Quinton Richard, Donovan Jackson and Noah Cherichel all looked dangerous with the ball in their hands.
DePlaneke and Mike Vega both ran hard and broke off some nice, physical runs behind an offensive line that did a nice job of creating openings.
Kicker Trey Schaneville proved to be reliable as ever kicking field goals of 35 and 26 yards in the first half, while also converting on all three of his PAT attempts in the second half.
However, while there was plenty to like about the way the Hawks played Wednesday night, there was also plenty for them to think about over the summer as they get ready for next season.
“I think it was a reality check that we can’t be living off last year’s season and that we need to establish ourselves as our own team and really start working,” Brandon Mays said.
Viera coach Kevin Mays called it a game of two halves, particularly on offense where the Hawks struggled early, but seemingly woke up in the second half as both Atkins and Kennedy seemed to get settled in.
Replacing graduating senior Hayden Kingston will be one of the biggest holes the Hawks will need to fill next season, not only because of his play, but also his leadership. Atkins, a rising sophomore, and Kennedy, a rising junior, will continue their competition into the fall camp.
“They’ve got a lot of learning to do,” Mays said of his quarterbacks. “They were nervous, and you could tell they were nervous. They’ve just got to grow up some. Both of them did some good things, had some good drives. They’ve just got to grow up.”
A 19-yard pass from Atkins to Richard, along with a 15-yard roughing-the-quarterback penalty, set up the Hawks’ first touchdown of the night in the third quarter. Keith Freeman did the honors, scoring from four yards out.
The Hawks would go for the two-point conversion and Atkins fumbled the ball into the end zone where Viera offensive lineman Gio Allen recovered it and the score was tied 14-14.
When Viera got the ball back, Kennedy threw a quick pass to Cherichel, who raced 42 yards for the go-ahead score. Mike Vega and Atkins would both score on two-yard touchdown runs to complete the scoring.
And so, the Hawks head into the summer with a few things to think about.
“We’ve got to work a lot harder,” Deplancke said. “We’ve got to get our confidence level way up. We’ve got to get all the butterflies out. Yeah, we’ll be nervous and everything, but we can’t be as nervous as we were today.
“We’ve got to come out and put our foot on the pedal right on.”
In some ways, the way Wednesday night’s game may have been just what the Hawks needed, especially coming off such a big season.
“I was glad to see us struggle a little bit,” Kevin Mays said. “It’ll make us hungry in the summer.”