Hawks overcome emotions to put away Pirates 44-6


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Viera High sophomore Cohen Graham-Johnson breaks off a nice run during Friday night's game against Palm Bay. The Hawks won the game 44-6 to stay unbeaten on the season.

VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala

The Viera Hawks were thrown off their game a little bit Friday night.

And while that didn’t stop Viera from winning in convincing fashion, it did give the Hawks an idea of what can happen if they don’t stay focused on the task at hand.

Quarterback C.J. Simms threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more as the Hawks defeated visiting Palm Bay 44-6 in Viera’s homecoming game.

Despite the lopsided score, it was an uneven performance for the Hawks, who missed on a number of potentially big plays and struggled occasionally on defense.

Part of that can be attributed to an emotionally charged pregame moment when, just after the coin toss, Palm Bay players came toward the 50-yard line – about 10 feet from Viera’s bench – and tried to spike their school flag in the ground.

That was just the beginning of what was an ugly kind of game as the Pirates were called for numerous penalties, including personal fouls and even an unsportsmanlike penalty … during a timeout.

“We played sloppy and emotional in the first quarter,” Viera coach Derek Smith said. “We allowed antics (to get to us). … We have to learn to keep our cool when it comes to that. Other than that, we’re good.”

Viera senior Jackson Hatfield, who not only played on both the offensive and defensive lines, but also scored a touchdown on a 2-yard run late in the game, agreed with his coach that the Hawks need to do a better job of staying focused in those situations.

“That’s the hardest part,” Hatfield said. “If we play our ball, and we stay to our game plan, I don’t think anyone can keep up with us. But if we starting getting into all the hype, and all the chit-chat that goes on during a game, that’s when we start getting out of our minds.”

Viera (3-0) would get on the board first as Simms hit Jake Woodruff with a 10-yard touchdown pass on the Hawks’ opening drive. Instead of kicking the PAT, Viera instead ran a fake with holder Connor Yancey hitting Aidan Davis for a two-point conversion to make it an 8-0 game.

Palm Bay would answer with a short pass that was turned into a long, electric touchdown. The Pirates (0-3) went for the game-tying conversion, but failed.

Viera wide receiver Caleb Osburn went deep and was wide open down the right side of the field, but the connection couldn’t be made. Several plays later, Simms went looking for Osburn again – this time, down the left sideline – and the senior made the catch and took it in for a 65-yard touchdown.

Simms would later score on a 2-yard run to put the Hawks up 22-6 at the half.

It became 37-6 in the second half when Simms hit Zak Sedaros for a 3-yard touchdown pass and then ran it in from 6 yards out. Once again, the Hawks would get a two-point conversion, this time on a run by Yancey.

Viera’s defense, meanwhile, got an interception by Austin Smith and some solid play up front from starters Hatfield, Jamari Lyons, Tyler Cooley and Nate Acevedo – with help from Cameron Wright and Connor Nelson – and did a better job of handling Palm Bay’s offense in the second half.

With the game winding down, Viera got a nice catch and run by sophomore Cohen Graham-Johnson that put the ball at the Palm Bay 2-yard line. Hatfield got the carry and was able to get the touchdown.

“It felt good. First time ever (that I’ve scored a touchdown) playing football,” Hatfield said. “But when (offensive coordinator Mike) Degory gives you the opportunity, you don’t let it slip.”

The Hawks, who have won their first three games by a combined score of 127-12, will be off next week because their scheduled opponent – Melbourne – has been put in quarantine by Brevard County Public Schools following a positive COVID-19 test.

When they come back on Oct. 23, the Hawks will begin what will be the toughest part of their schedule by far – a three-game stretch that includes Cocoa at home and then back-to-back road games at Rockledge and Eau Gallie to close out the regular season.

Hatfield said the one-week break could be beneficial.

“I feel it will,” he said. “We’ve got nooks and crannies, just little things that need to be fixed. Some boys need to get healthy again. Nothing too major.

“A week off … we need to get our minds right. It’s just an extra week to game plan for Cocoa. One step at a time, one game at a time.”