Motivated Hawks make their point during 55-0 win in Class 7A playoff opener
DeMorat throws for four TDs, runs for another while Viera defense shines
Viera High's Miguel Rodriguez is about to lay a big hit on Gaither quarterback Shaye Scott during Friday night's Class 7A regional quarterfinal game. The Hawks won 55-0.
VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala
Motivation can come in many forms.
And for the Viera High football team, all the extra motivation the Hawks needed for Friday’s Class 7A regional quarterfinal game against Tampa Gaither came in the form of something taped to each player’s locker.
It was a copy of story in the Tampa Bay Times in which Cowboys coach Kirk Karsen was quoted as saying, “Viera seems very undersized. I think we have a great chance to win.”
Talk about the perfect recipe for perhaps the best game Viera has played all season. Take a hungry team, add a few motivating words, stir ... and let it simmer for a few hours until game time.
Boom. Instant blowout.
The defense shut down a Gaither running game that had been averaging 278 yards a game, and Viera quarterback Tim DeMorat completed 14 of 15 passes for 313 yards and four touchdowns in a 55-0 win for the host Hawks.
“Once their coach put that stuff where we’re an undersized team in the paper, it fired us up,” Viera senior defensive end James Klaas said. “I wasn’t really worried about how we were going to come out and play, but obviously, the scoreboard showed we came out here and balled out.”
Which is exactly what Viera coach Kevin Mays expected his team to do.
After getting together for their usual pregame breakfast Friday morning, the coaching staff took the players to see the movie “Thor: Raganok” later in the day.
While the players were at the movie, Mays snuck out and put a copy of the quote on each of their lockers.
“They came back to a big printout of, ‘you guys are undersized, and we think we’ve got a great chance to win the game,’” Mays said. “That was on their lockers real big.
“It’s funny with high school kids, that’s all it took. We didn’t have to say anything else tonight.”
The Hawks certainly played like a team with something to prove Friday night.
They took away Gaither’s main weapon – the running game – which the Cowboys were hoping to use to control the clock and keep the Viera offense off the field.
Klaas came up big. So did defensive end Miguel Rodriguez and interior defenders Mike Buccieri and Cooper Davis. The rest of the main defensive rotation – Brandon Mays, Brock Holland, Kyler Doane, David Eaton, Bear Bollinger, Aaron Thomas, Cortez Reid, Qunelius Phillips, Garrett Kaminski and Trey Schaneville – were all solid as well.
Offensively, the Hawks got a nearly flawless game from DeMorat.
The senior quarterback opened the scoring by smartly scrambling for a 12-yard touchdown run. He would later connect with Travis Jones on TD passes of 40 and 45 yards while also hitting Sean Atkins for a 15-yard score just before the end of the first half and a 51-yard throw to Phillips on the first play of the third quarter.
“It was nice,” DeMorat said. “Coach (Mays) put a good game plan together and we came out with a little bit of a chip on our shoulder because they called us undersized.
“Offensively, it was just clicking. Everything was working. The receivers were doing a great job. The O-line was blocking. Jaren (Lewis) did a good job running the ball and … it just came out good.”
Lewis would score Viera’s third touchdown on a 1-yard run.
And with DeMorat out of the game, and the clock running in the second half, backup quarterback Seth Kennedy added a 1-yard TD run of his own to make it 49-0.
It looked like that would be the final score until, on what would turn out to be the final play of the game, Viera’s Chancellor McGriff sacked and stripped the ball from Gaither quarterback Shaye Scott and Julius Barfield picked it up and ran 24 yards for a touchdown that punctuated the victory.
While Mays said, “Tim was really good tonight,” the Hawks certainly got a big night up front from Max Lawson, Hunter Plotkin, Gavin Lamp, Gio Allen and Andrew Hart. Lewis ran hard and Jones, Atkins and Quinton Russack-Cradeur all had their way with the Gaither secondary.
Jones in particular played well on this night. Not only did he catch the two TD passes, but he also made an over-the-shoulder grab on a 41-yard pass play that was more impressive than his touchdown receptions in which he simply ran past the defense.
“Travis is a great receiver,” DeMorat said. “On any given night, it could be a different receiver having a huge game – Quinton, Sean or Travis.
“Tonight, Travis did a great job. He was getting open and making it easy for me. He did great.”
Add the excellent job of Schaneville on extra points and Max Pacheaco on kickoffs – plus the fact that the Hawks didn’t have to punt all night – and you have perhaps the most complete game the team has put together all season.
The win puts Viera (8-1) into next week’s regional semifinal against Plant (10-1) – a 43-0 winner over East River Friday night. It will be a rematch of last year’s regional final played in Tampa which Plant won.
This time, the game will be in Viera.
Although his earlier words provided the Hawks with motivation, Karsen was full of nothing but praise for Viera – and DeMorat in particular – after the game.
“They’re a great football team,” Karsen said. “I underestimated them on defense. They played a lot more physical than I thought they were.
“(DeMorat) is as good as advertised. I thought the kid at Tampa Bay Tech (University of Tennessee commit Michael Penix Jr.) was probably the best we’d see all year, but (DeMorat) was definitely equal and up to the task.
“He’s a special football player.”
Although he admitted there was plenty about Gaither to cause concern before the game, Mays said he knew the Hawks were ready to play Friday night the moment they hit the field.
“Oh you could see it,” the Hawks coach said. “Be it the playoffs, be it what (their coach) said … they were different tonight.”