Viera players excited to hit field for spring practice


Viera High defensive linemen work through a drill on the first day of spring football practice.


The anticipation is finally over.

Spring football is here.

“I’ve been waiting so long,” Viera High’s Jarvelle Francis said Monday. “I’ve been working hard, lifting weights and doing drills.”

The Hawks had what head coach Derek Smith called “a solid first day” of work as they prepare for their May 17 spring game at West Orange High at 7:30 p.m.

“The first day of spring is always about trying to get the kinks out, making sure everybody understands the flow and the rhythm,” Smith said. “I tell them the next two days are about kinks. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, we should be in a fast flow where everything looks, to me, like Week 18 of last year.”

That’s just how the defense looked on Monday.

Players knew Viera’s stunts and blitzes and coverages, which means the team can really move forward this spring rather than having to spend time teaching the basics.

“Obviously, it can be different when tackling starts happening, but mentally, I think we’re ahead of the game already,” Smith said. “(Part of that is having) so many guys back. I think our coaches do a thorough job of teaching during the school year.

“To me, the offseason is about getting stronger, but it’s also about educating our kids and making them stronger.”

There is no better example of that than Francis.

After showing promise early last season, the junior missed more than half the season with a knee injury. Not only is he healthy and ready to go, Francis is bench pressing 330 pounds (up 80 pounds from last season) and getting ready to take on a much bigger role for Viera next season.

The plan is for him to play both wide receiver and linebacker.

“That’s very exciting,” Francis said. “I probably won’t come off the field.”

Smith, for his part, praised the hard work Francis put in leading up to spring practice, and what that could possibly mean for the Hawks come the fall.

“I think Jarvelle is going to be a do-it-all player for us,” Smith said. “He’s shown excitement. He did a lot for us last year before he got hurt in that Vero (Beach Kickoff Classic) game and was out for 6-7 weeks.

“Now, he’s to the point where he wants to show that he wants to lead this team. I like it.”

Although the Hawks lost a number of key players from last year’s team that reached the regional semifinals, the Hawks are still loaded with talent. Quarterback Bryce Norton – who led the state in total yards last season – and defensive lineman Cooper Davis, who holds a number of offers from schools like West Virginia, UCF, Illinois and USF to name a few.

The Hawks will have all kinds of speed at receiver with one of the county’s fastest athletes, Jeremiah Housey, along with returners such as Caleb Osburn, Karsten Poole and Francis. Transfer Davis Mallinger and JV standout Donovan Giles will make receiving corps even scarier.

With Jalen Housey and TJ Johnson at running back and an offensive line that features Andrew Hart, Brady Touzet, Colben Maher and Hunter Plotkin, plus the return of Cooper Liston from injury and the addition of JV standouts Justin Humphries and Tyler Matas, the Hawks should be good up front.

Viera may have the best defensive line in the county coming back with Davis, Jamari Lyons, Julius Barfield and Jackson Hatfield.

The linebacker group will be led by Dan Steen, Connor Kennedy, Kei’Shawne Cooper, Nate DePlancke and transfer D’Andre Lewis.

Big things are expected of Zak Sedaros in the secondary with Kato Holmes, Mallinger, Jeremiah Housey and Bryce Reynolds all playing key roles as well.

“I feel like we’re going to be real good this year,” Francis said. “We’ve got a lot of athletes, and a lot of us play both ways like me.”

With the Class 3A regional track meet coming up Saturday at South Fork High School, the Hawks didn’t have everyone participating in Monday’s practice. But Smith didn’t seem to mind.

“I hope I don’t get them back for two weeks, because that means they qualified for state,” Smith said. “But until they come back, all that does is increase our depth. It makes the guys behind them get better.”