Offense comes up big as Hawks top South Fork, clinch third straight district title
DeMorat throws five touchdown passes in win
Viera's Mike Vega broke a number of tackles and launched himself backwards into the end zone, turning a short pass into a 37-yard touchdown during the Hawks' 58-34 victory over South Fork Friday night. The win clinched Viera's third straight district title.
VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala
TROPICAL FARMS – There was a time not all that long ago when victories were hard to come by for the Viera High football program. And a district title? Well, it was something to dream about.
To know those days is to truly appreciate what the Hawks accomplished Friday night.
By going on the road and defeating South Fork 58-34, Viera clinched its third straight Class 7A, District 6 championship.
Yep, a three-peat … it sounds so sweet.
“It’s another milestone for us,” senior defensive tackle Justin Harrison said. “We took this place from nowhere, and now we’re somewhere.
“Winning it three years in a row is a big thing for us since when we first got here as freshmen, we hadn’t won one. Having three of them in the last three years is a great feeling.”
Viera quarterback Tim DeMorat threw for five touchdowns – two of them to Travis Jones – as the Hawks were able to pull away from the host Bulldogs despite a rather rough night for the Hawks’ defense.
The victory ensures that Viera (6-2) will host its regional quarterfinal playoff game in two weeks. It also means the Hawks were able to avoid what happened in District 5 Friday night as East River, St. Cloud and Lake Nona finished in a three-way tie for first place and must now have a three-team shootout on Monday to determine its two
The Hawks will close out the regular season next week at Winter Springs, then face the second-place team from District 5 on Nov. 11.
Viera coach Kevin Mays, now in his sixth season, was both happy ad upset with what happened Friday night.
Let’s start with the happy:
“I do feel good about that part of it tonight,” Mays said of winning another district title. “The coaching staff, the players … for that to happen three years in a row, that’s a lot of hard work and dedication.”
Now for the rough part. After seeing a usually dominant defense get torched for more than 400 yards passing and five touchdowns by South Fork quarterback Stone Labanowitz, Mays was not a happy camper.
“I haven’t always talked nice about the offense (this season) and tonight, it’s the defense’s turn,” Mays said. “We’ll go in and watch film and we’ll get things figured out.
“But for us to go anywhere in the playoffs, we have got to play better than that.”
The good news for the Hawks is that, once again, the offense seemed to be really clicking. Viera scored a touchdown on each of its first five possessions as it produced big play after big play.
A 26-yard pass from DeMorat to Jones set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Will Champion for the Hawks on Viera’s first offensive series. And after South Fork answered with a 58-yard scoring pass of its own to tie things up, DeMorat again found Jones for a 35-yard pass to the Bulldogs’ 15-yard line.
One play later, DeMorat found Quinton Richard for the 15-yard touchdown that put the Hawks back in front. A 62-yard touchdown run by sophomore Jaren Lewis made it a 21-7 Viera lead.
From there, Viera’s Mike Vega and Don Jackson did a great job of turning short passes into long touchdown runs. Vega would score from 37 yards out, then it was Jackson weaving his way downfield for a 70-yard score.
In the second half, DeMorat and Jones would hook up on touchdown throws of 26 and 5 yards, showing once again that the two juniors have developed a good chemistry.
“We just started getting used to him throwing it up and him being able to rely on me to catch it,” Jones said. “We’ve been instilling that in our offense and I’ve been making sure to get to the ball wherever he throws it.”
While Jones has been getting better and better every week, DeMorat’s progress and comfort level with the offense has grown exponentially better as well … which is a big thing for a team with hopes of going far into the postseason.
“Where Tim was Week One to now … Tim’s doing a great job,” Mays said.
And while it wasn’t the best night for Viera’s defense, there were a number of strong individual plays.
Defensive ends Marco Foreman and Miguel Rodriguez put constant pressure on Labanowitz, who was called for intentional grounding in the end zone resulting in a safety. Viera senior Jacob Wigley had an interception.
Then there was Harrison, who turned a would-be South Fork screen pass into an 18-yard interception return for a touchdown.
“I saw the ball coming to me. It was just floating like it was in slow motion,” Harrison said. “All of a sudden, I just had tunnel vision for the end zone. I had great blockers in front of me. I had to make a cut back and score the touchdown.”
And score it he did, becoming the second Viera defensive lineman to return an interception of a screen pass for a touchdown. Foreman did it against Rockledge in the season opener.
Those are the kinds of plays winning programs make, and that’s exactly what the Hawks have become since Mays and his staff took over six years ago.
From having no district titles or playoff appearances in the history of the school, to having three in a row and trying to get back to the Class 7A state championship games, Viera has come a long way.
“(When we got here four years ago), it was full of people working hard, but people weren’t used to what it took to win,” Harrison said. “Now we know the standard of what it takes to win.
“And now that we all know the standard, I think we all know what it takes to get back to the state championship (game).”