Viera offense starting to ‘click’ as Hawks roll to district win

Hawks now 2-0 in district after 42-6 win over Tohopekaliga


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Viera High's Zach Taylor (bottom) puts pressure on Tohopekaliga quarterback Tyler Wesley during Friday night's Class 7A, District 5 game at Hawk Stadium. The play was ruled an incomplete pass.

VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala

If there is one thing that has been clear the past few weeks, it’s that the Viera High offense is starting to put it together.

That was certainly the case Friday night as Viera rolled over visiting Tohopekaliga High 42-6 in front of a Homecoming Game crowd at Hawk Stadium.

“There’s always stuff to work on, but I think this week, we clicked a little bit more than the rest,” junior quarterback Bryce Norton said.

Norton ran for a 5-yard touchdown and hit receiver Davis Mallinger with an 82-yard touchdown pass to help lead the Hawks (4-2), who improved to 2-0 in the Class 7A, District 5 standings.

Jarvelle Francis and Jeremiah Housey both ran for two touchdowns for Viera, which has now scored 112 points in its past three games.

“We’re growing as an offense now,” Viera coach Derek Smith said. “You’re starting to see the offense start to spark. The offense is getting better each week.”

Viera’s defense, meanwhile, has been playing strong all season. Friday night was no different.

Nolan Helton and Johnny Eaton both had interceptions and Cooper Davis batted down several passes and put constant pressure on Tohopekaliga quarterback Tyler Wesley. JuJu Barfield also batted down a pass and combined with Davis, Jamari Lyons, Tyler Cooley, Jackson Hatfield and Nate Acevedo to dominate much of the action up front.

That led to some strong play by other Viera defenders like Helton, Eaton, Housey, Zach Taylor, D’Andre Lewis, Connor Kennedy, Eric Diaz and Zak Sedaros.

Viera has held its opponents to less than 10 points in four of six games so far this season.

That’s why it’s so encouraging to see the offense start to put things together.

Francis got the Hawks going early with a 30-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. He later added a 1-yard run on the first play of the second quarter to put Viera ahead 14-0.

Viera’s offensive line, which includes Andrew Hart, Brady Touzet, Tyler Matas, Colben Maher, Cooper Liston and Hatfield – with occasional help from Davis – did a much better job of opening up running lanes against the Tigers defense.

The Hawks even went with an unbalanced line on fourth-and-goal from the 5 as Norton went around the right side to get the touchdown to make it a three-score game.

But it was Viera’s next touchdown that may have been the real eye-opener.

If there has been one thing missing from this year’s offense when compared to last season, it’s the big-play passing game.

But with the Hawks backed up at their own 18 just before the end of the first half, Norton went deep to Mallinger, who did a good job of making a few defenders miss near the goal line to complete the 82-yard touchdown pass.

“We had one tonight. I was excited about that,” Norton said. “We just executed that play. We made stuff happen. That’s what we need to start doing more of.”

With last year’s top receivers – Sean Atkins and Shamaar Mohr – having graduated, it’s taken a little time for Norton and Mallinger, Caleb Osburn, Donovan Giles and Housey to develop their timing … but it’s starting to come together.

“We definitely grew over time, over the spring, over the first couple of months of practice,” Norton said. “It’s definitely been working out better as we go on.”

Housey would get the last two scores for the Viera, in different fashion. First, he swept around the right side for a 1-yard touchdown run. Then, after the Tigers got their only TD of the night, Housey raced right through the heart of the Tohopekaliga defense for a 47-yard score.

It was the last home game of the season for Viera, depending on what happens in the next two weeks.

The Hawks will travel to St. Cloud (5-2, 1-1) Friday for another key district game. If Viera can beat the Bulldogs, it would set up an Oct. 25 game at Melbourne (7-1, 3-0) that would decide the district champion.

“Obviously, winning the district is what we’ve talked about from day one,” Smith said. “The bottom line is every game in our district is a playoff game.

“This was really the second playoff game. Harmony was the first, St. Cloud will be the third. That’s how you’ve got to look at it.”

Should Viera win its sixth consecutive district title, the Hawks would secure at least one more home game in the playoffs.

“If we got some more (home games) that would definitely be exciting,” Norton said. “We love having the crowd out. We love playing at home. We don’t have to drive. We have the whole town out here. We definitely like it.”