Hawks fall in Class 7A regional football playoff opener

Turnovers, talented Charlotte team too much for Viera to overcome


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Viera High coach Kevin Mays (center) addresses his team after the Hawks lost their first-ever playoff game to Charlotte. Mays' biggest message was for his players to keep their heads up and remember hat a great seaso they had.

VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala

Keep your heads up, and remember what you achieved this season.

That was the message Viera High coach Kevin Mays had for the Hawks after their dream of a deep postseason run was cut short by a 48-0 loss to the visiting Charlotte Fightin’ Tarpons in the Class 7A regional quarterfinals Friday night.

“I hope they sit back and reflect on what they’ve accomplished here,” Mays said. “I mean … if you would have asked three years ago if this place could be undefeated and district champs, a lot of people would have laughed at us. This is a close-knit group and I think they’ll stay that way.”

All season long, Viera’s offense was able to come with the big play on offense, the big stop or takeaway on defense. That’s what helped the Hawks go 9-0 and become district champions – both firsts for the football program. It’s also what led to them hosting their first-ever playoff game.

But the Hawks were never in this one

Viera turned the ball over four times in the first half – three on consecutive possessions – and Charlotte capitalized in a big way, racing to a 34-0 halftime lead.

Give the better-than-expected Fightin’ Tarpons all the credit. They were big, physical, fast and talented. And when they jumped on the Hawks, they never let up.

“Turnovers played a big role in the game,” Viera’s junior quarterback Hayden Kingston said. “The offense put the defense in a bind. We didn’t give them any reason to get some rest. We haven’t turned the ball over like that all season. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be tonight.

“It’s very disappointing. For the seniors … the underclassmen, we feel for them. We know deep down inside we had the talent to play with that team, and play with any team in the state. We really believe that. Just tonight, some things didn’t fall our way.”

Friday’s game marked the end of high school football for Viera’s senior class. But with a talented crop of underclassmen returning next season, the Hawks have a chance to make sure this playoff run is the start of something even bigger.

“These guys will rebound,” Mays said. “The class coming back … I usually take time off (after the season). It wouldn’t surprise me if these guys wanted to get (back) in the weight room next week. That’s just the kind of kids they are. They’re not going to be happy with this. They’re a good group.”

As much as Friday’s loss stung, Mays’ message to his team seemed to be sinking in. As the players milled about in front of their locker room, Kingston was hugging players and telling them how much he enjoyed playing with them.

This was definitely not the way the Hawks wanted to go out. But it shouldn’t take the shine off what was the best season in school history

‘I’m incredibly proud of everybody on the team,” Kingston said. “I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else. I’m proud to be here. Even if we weren’t what we are and had the season we did, I’m proud to play with everybody.

“I know we’re all proud of the season we had. We definitely don’t let that pass us up. But the junior class is motivated to be better next year.”