Defense dominates as Hawks shut out East River in playoff opener
Viera wins 41-0 to reach regional semifinals
Viera's Marco Foreman (right) sacks East River quarterback Tyler O'Hara during Friday night's Class 7A regional quarterfinal. The Hawks would go on to win 41-0.
VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala
It’s playoff time once again and the Viera Hawks know exactly what that means:
Time to take things up a few notches.
That certainly was the case on the defensive side of the ball for the Hawks Friday night as they forced three East River turnovers on the way to a 41-0 victory in the Class 7A regional quarterfinals at Hawk Stadium.
“We just put it in another gear,” Viera senior defensive end Marco Foreman said. “We’ve been here before, gotta act like it and we have. Hopefully, next week we come out with the same mentality.”
Viera (8-2) will host a familiar opponent in next week’s regional semifinal. Martin County defeated Lake Nona 35-14 Friday, meaning that for the second straight year, the Hawks and Tigers will meet during both the regular season and the postseason.
The Hawks won that earlier meeting 55-24 thanks in larger part to the play of their defense, which came through again Friday night against East River.
Will Champion returned an interception 45 yards for a touchdown, Garrett Kaminski also had a pick and Jaylin Wilson recovered a fumble and Foreman spearheaded the pass rush with three sacks. Miguel Rodriguez also had a big night along with Brock Holland, Connor Kaminski and the rest of the defense.
“I think the defense played very well,” Foreman said. “We executed everything correctly, didn’t really have any break(downs).”
After watching tape of East River (6-5), the Hawks came into the game hoping to slow down East River’s Sirwand Brown. And that’s exactly what Viera did, holding the Falcons’ most explosive player to just 24 yards on nine carries.
“Watching film, (Brown) seemed like a majority of their offense,” Brandon Mays said. “If we stopped him, we felt like we’d win the game and it worked out.”
While it certainly was a good night for Viera’s defense, the Hawks didn’t have their best night on offense. The big plays that have punctuated past games were missing, particularly in the passing game, as East River’s defensive line did a nice job of getting some push up front.
“We knew their secondary was good, so I was hoping we could run the ball,” Viera coach Kevin Mays said. “We had some success with that. We just kind of … offensively, we just weren’t clicking tonight.
“I don’t know if it’s because there was no school today (because of Veterans Day), or what. We just weren’t on tonight.”
Viera would get a 1-yard touchdown run from Keith Freeman along with a 9-yard scoring run by Mike Vega and a 3-yard touchdown scramble from Seth Kennedy.
Brandon Mays, who sustained a leg injury two weeks ago at South Fork, showed no ill effects of it Friday night. The Hawks linebacker got a chance to carry the ball twice on offense and made the most of it by scoring on runs of two and 20 yards.
“I’ve been going to therapy every morning for the past two weeks,” Brandon Mays said. “Waking up early hasn’t been fun, but this was fun.”
One part of the night that was definitely not lighthearted came with 9:14 remaining and Viera leading 34-0. Kennedy had just entered the game at quarterback and was scrambling out of bounds when he was hit late by an East River player on Viera’s sidelines.
Emotions escalated from there and a fight broke out between the two teams. Both coaching staffs did their best to calm things down, but tensions were still high as an East River player was ejected and a 15-yard penalty was assessed for the late hit. Further punishments could be pending once a review of the incident takes place.
“I’ll be honest, I don’t know what happened,” Kevin Mays said. “Chaos broke loose and we did, as coaches, everything we could do to keep our guys from doing anything.
“Their guy hit our guy late out of bounds and I don’t know what happened (after that).”
Once any possible fallout occurs, the Hawks will face a different kind of challenge when it comes to facing Martin County again last week.
Just because the Hawks won going away in their first meeting does not guarantee it will happen again, especially since you can expect Martin County to come in extremely motivated by the chance to get revenge, and with the stakes being much higher.
Viera, however, will have one thing going in its favor in its third straight playoff appearance. The veteran players not only understand they have to turn up their level of play a few notches, they also have the experience to know just how to do it.
“This is what we look forward to,” Brandon Mays said. “If you can’t get hyped up for playing playoff football, you don’t belong.”