Big third quarter lifts Cocoa past Viera 17-7 in game shortened by lightning storm


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There's nowhere to run for Cocoa's Javian Hawkins as he's surround by Viera defenders (from l-r) Garrett Kaminski, Brandon Mays and Brock Holland during Friday night's game. The Tigers would find some running room in the third quarter and went on to a 17-7 victory

VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala

There is no doubt in Kevin Mays’ mind that the Viera High offense is going to put it all together before the season is out.

But as the Hawks found out against a strong, aggressive Cocoa High defense Friday night, they’re still a work in progress.

“You’ve got young guys. You’ve got some new guys. And they have to gel,” Mays said. “It takes some time. I think as coaches, you want to see it happen automatically, but there is obviously a growing period.

“And then, when you go against a good team like that … they magnify your weak spots.”

Whether the Hawks could have made up for it against Cocoa will never be known. After a close first half that had the game tied at 7-7, the Tigers dominated the third quarter action, taking a 17-7 lead before a lightning delay was called with 10 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

After a little over an hour, and with storms and lightning still in the area, the game was called and Cocoa is your winner by that 17-7 score.

The same two teams that put on quite a show last season, put on another good one this time around. But once again, it was the Tigers – ranked No. 2 in the state in Class 4A by the Associated Press – coming out on top of the Hawks, who are ranked No. 9 in Class 7A.

“We wanted to test ourselves to see where we’re at, that’s why we scheduled good teams like Cocoa,” Mays said. “I think our defense played good tonight. Offensively, we struggled, and I think that just takes time with some of our younger guys.

“I think we all would have looked forward to finishing the game to see where it ended, but Mother Nature didn’t cooperate.”

Neither did the Tigers (3-1), who took advantage when their defense was able to stop Viera short on a fourth-and-one less from its own 43-yard line.

Cocoa took advantage of the short field and moved in for the touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

The Hawks (3-2) would answer in large part due to the strong play of their own defense.

On a play Cocoa coach John Wilkinson would later take the blame for himself, the Tigers tried to throw the ball deep while backed up at their own 14.

Viera’s Garrett Kaminski intercepted the pass and returned it all the way to the Cocoa 5-yard line, giving Viera a first-and-goal. However, an illegal substitution penalty on the Hawks, plus two strong plays by Cocoa’s defense pushed Viera all the way back to the 19-yard line.

Just when it seemed like the Hawks would squander a perfect touchdown opportunity, Viera quarterback Tim DeMorat found Travis Jones over the middle and the speedy receiver took the ball down to the Tigers’ 1-yard line.

On fourth-and-goal, Brennen DePlancke took it in from a yard out and the game was tied 7-7, where it would remain until halftime.

During the break, Wilkinson said the Tigers made the decision to run right at the Hawks and “let the chips fall where they may.” And using counters and a few misdirection plays, coupled with a strong push from its offensive line, Cocoa was able to move the ball on both of its third quarter drives, getting a 2-yard touchdown run from Timmy Pratt to break the 7-7 tie, and a nice 44-yard field goal from Alex Petruzzello to make it a two-score game.

Then came the lightning delay.

“They found a soft spot (in our defense) and we had to kind of adjust to it there at the end of the third quarter,” Mays said. “But that goes to them. They’re a good group of coaches. It would have been nice to see where we would have finished, but …”

The bright spots for the Hawks came on defense, where Viera got its usual solid play from linebackers Brandon Mays and Connor Kaminski, plus defensive linemen Marco Foreman, Miguel Rodriguez, Justin Harrison and Jaylin Wilson.

Obviously, Garrett Kaminski had a good game and sophomore linebacker Brock Holland was in on a number of tackles as well.

And while the offense struggled, Mays reiterated that he believes things will get better as the year goes along and the group gets more playing time under its belt.

“We’ve seen some real good things from them this year,” Mays said. “I expect them to bounce back. We’re halfway through the season. Obviously, we’ve got things to do, but they’ll come around.”

While Viera has certainly played in some big games this season, the biggest contest to date will happen next week when the Hawks host Melbourne in their Class 7A, District 6 opener.

“That’s when you play for real,” Mays said.