Viera tops Martin County 55-24 to move closer to 3rd consecutive district title
Viera High linebacker Brandon Mays shows he's got some moves as a ballcarrier during Friday night's 55-24 victory over Martin County. Mays would score on a 2-yard touchdown run.
VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala
The Viera Hawks had just won their biggest game of the season and running back Keith Freeman was all smiles.
“It felt pretty good coming out and helping the team win a big district game that we really needed tonight,” the senior said.
Helping fill in for injured starter Brennen DePlancke, Freeman ran 11 times for 65 yards and scored on a 3-yard run late in the game as the Hawks defeated visiting Martin County 55-24 to put themselves one more win away from a third straight Class 7A, District 6 title.
Freeman, who transferred to Viera for his senior season, was one of just a number of players who made a name for themselves on what was so far the season’s biggest stage.
And we’re not saying that because it was the Hawks’ homecoming game.
Mike Vega had a 74-yard touchdown run. Cortez Reid had a huge interception, which returned to the Martin County 8-yard line to set up a touchdown run by sophomore Jaren Lewis.
Even some of Viera’s more established players found themselves coming up big in different roles.
Cornerback Will Champion carried the ball four times and scored on touchdown runs of 2 and 11 yards.
Linebacker Brandon Mays also added a 2-yard touchdown run and added a 35-yard interception return for a score for good measure.
On a night that could have been very frustrating considering the Hawks struggled once again with penalties and added two more names to their injury list, Viera got contributions up and down the roster to put the Tigers (5-2) away.
“We came into this game (saying) this was the game,” Viera coach Kevin Mays said. “A lot of our penalties are guys playing with emotion and taking just one extra step. We’ve got to calm that down if we’re going to make a playoff run, but overall … I’m pretty happy with them tonight.”
Two weeks ago, in their first game without DePlancke, the Hawks rushed for only 58 yards in a district win against Melbourne.
On Friday night, against a Martin County team that was riding a five-game winning streak, the Hawks ran for 208 yards and scored five times on the ground.
Vega led Viera with 89 yards on five carries, including his 74-yard sprint to the end zone.
But if there was any back who helped the Hawks establish their running game, it was Freeman, who had 65 yards on 11 carries.
He even got to show a little more of his athleticism on his touchdown run, jumping over defenders to get into the end zone.
“I saw the line was pretty bundled up at the end and I saw that I had space, so I just hurdled over them and got the touchdown,” Freeman said.
Viera also made use of a power running formation that featured Champion at tailback and Brandon Mays and Connor Kaminski at the fullback spots. The Hawks would score three times from that formation, including Mays’ 2-yard touchdown run.
“It was a lot of fun,” Brandon Mays said of getting a chance to carry the ball. “… At the beginning of the season, we were having a hard time with those short-yardage plays, so we put that in there.
“It worked out pretty good tonight.”
With the ground game working, Viera quarterback Tim DeMorat was very efficient with the ball, completing 11 of 15 passes for 127 yards and a score.
That touchdown came when senior co-captain Don Jackson took a quick out and turned it upfield for a 41-yard touchdown run.
Overall, DeMorat did a nice job of spreading the ball around to Jackson, Quinton Richard, Sean Atkins, Vega, Jones and Bear Bollinger.
“Tim’s starting to settle in, trying to get things figured out,” Kevin Mays said. “We stay on him pretty good as far as what I expect out of him. He’s got to be the leader and he did a great job tonight.
“Our offensive line did a good job tonight. We were able to run the ball successfully. Our special teams did great tonight. It was good.”
The turning point in the game came just before halftime.
With Viera leading 14-10, Martin County lined up for a 39-yard field goal that would have cut the Hawks’ lead to one. Instead, the kick bounced off the crossbar.
Shortly thereafter, Jackson’s touchdown catch-and-run made it 21-10 Viera. And when Martin County tried to answer, Reid intercepted the ball and returned it to the Tigers’ 8-yard line. That set up a touchdown run by Lewis and suddenly Viera had an 18-point lead.
With the pass rush being generated up front by Marco Foreman, Miguel Rodriguez, Jaylin Wilson and James Klaas, the play at linebacker by Brandon Mays, Connor Kaminski, Brock Holland, David Eaton and Kyler Doane and the backend defense provided by Champion, Garrett Kaminski (who also had a pick), Reid, Lance Reynolds and Colton Farrington, the Tigers were in for a rough night trying to chip away at that lead.
Not even injuries to two more starters -- defensive tackle Justin Harrison and wide receiver Travis Jones could – could slow the Hawks down on this night.
“It’s a team game and the team really came out and showed out tonight,” Brandon Mays said.
Viera’s reward for the victory is a week off, which should allow Harrison and Jones – who eventually returned to the game – time to heal up for what will be another big district game on Oct. 28 at South Fork.
The Hawks, the only undefeated team in district play, will clinch another district title if they can win on the road.
“We’re on a bye week,” Kevin Mays said. “We’ll practice three or four days this week, let the guys get healed up and then … everybody’s really still in the mix (for the district title).
“(We need to) keep these guys hungry.”