Let the naysayers nay … Smith says Hawks close to turning it around

Viera now 0-3 after loss at Kissimmee Osceola


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Viera high's Shamaar Mohr looks to break free against the Kissimmee Osceola defense during Friday night's game. The Hawks lost 34-14 to fall to 0-3 on the season, but head coach Derek Smith says the team is close to turning things around.

VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala

KISSIMMEE – After the Viera High football team fell to 0-3 after a 34-14 road loss to Kissimmee Osceola, Hawks coach Derek Smith knows exactly what people outside the program must be thinking.

And he begs to differ.

“Absolutely, everybody’s going to think we’re done,” Smith said. “They’re going to think we’re washed up. But I disagree.”

The Hawks pointed out the combined record of Viera’s first three opponents (Rockledge, Fort Dorchester (S.C.) and Osceola) is now a combined 10-0 and all three are ranked in the top 10 in the state in their classifications by the Associated Press.

“We’ve lost to three undefeated football teams,” Smith said. “They’re all three playoff teams that haven’t lost a game yet. If I’m 0-3 and I’ve lost to three teams that are 1-2, I might have something to say.”

Viera beat another ranked team – Vero Beach – in its Kickoff Classic and certainly had its chances to beat both Rockledge and Fort Dorchester in both of its opening games.

Friday night’s contest against the Kowboys was a little different.

Once again, a team with a big offensive line and a good running attack was able to move the ball on Viera’s defense.

The Kowboys jumped out to a 13-0 first quarter lead as Viera’s offense had trouble finishing drives.

The Hawks reached the Osceola 7-yard line on their second drive, but a holding call on third down backed them up and they eventually tried a 34-yard field goal that was no good.

Not only did Viera lose out on a scoring opportunity, it also lost star receiver Sean Atkins to an injury with 4:41 remaining in the first quarter. Smith said Atkins was eventually medically cleared to return to the game, but that the coaching staff chose to keep him out as a precaution.

Trailing 13-0, Viera found itself back in the red zone with a first-and-goal at the Osceola 8-yard line. After losing two yards on its next three plays, Viera went for it on fourth down and fumbled the ball away at the 10.

Viera’s defense then came up big as Cooper Davis appeared to literally steal the ball from an Osceola runner and give the Hawks the ball back at Osceola’s 25.

One play later, sophomore running back Jalen Housey raced into the end zone for the 25-yard score. Robbie Murtha’s extra point made it a 13-7 game.

Whatever momentum the Hawks were able to gain from that, though, was quickly erased as Osceola scored twice more – the second time on a pass that was tipped by a Viera defensive back and went right to an Osceola receiver for a 52-yard score.

Viera, meanwhile, had one drive that started with a block-in-the-back penalty and was followed by a bad snap that saw the Hawks move backwards from their own 28 to their own 4.

It was 26-7 at the half, and didn’t get any better in the second half as Osceola scored on its first possession of the third quarter and made it a 34-7 game.

Viera would get into the red zone once more, and had a second-and-goal at the Osceola 3 before a fumbled snap would back them up to the 6. The Hawks would go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 10, but the Kowboys made the tackle at the 2 to keep the Hawks out of the end zone.

While the Hawks have been dealing with a rash of injuries, and relying on young players in key positions, missed opportunities, critical penalties and mistakes will get you beat no matter who you’re playing.

“It was a tough night,” Smith said. “We didn’t play very well. They’re a very fundamentally sound Wing-T football team and we played very unsound.

“They have a couple of big-time playmakers that if you let them get open in space, they’ll capitalize off it real quick.”

While it certainly wasn’t the Hawks’ night, it wasn’t as if they didn’t have their moments, or have things to build off of.

Sophomore Jalen Housey had a nice touchdown run and ran the ball hard. Another Viera running back, Kevin Chandler, also had a few nice plays.

Senior receiver Shamaar Mohr continues to have a strong start to the season and sophomore receiver Jeremiah Housey made a nice catch and run, breaking several tackles on his way to setting up Viera for a first-and-goal at the Osceola 7.

Sophomore quarterback Bryce Norton also continued to show improvement and was involved in one of Viera’s biggest highlights of the night in the fourth quarter.

Dropping back from the Osceola 32-yard line, Norton found junior receiver Karsten Poole wide open over the middle. As Poole made his way downfield, he was hit and the ball popped loose … right into the hands of Viera sophomore Caleb Osburn, who took the ball in for his first varsity touchdown.

Defensively, Viera senior linebackers Hunter Lee and Bear Bollinger were all over the field. Davis, a junior, had the fumble recovery and was in on a number of tackles along with senior Chancellor McGriff. Sophomore Jackson Hatfield had a sack.

Senior Cortez Reid blocked a PAT and was also in on a bunch of tackles along with senior Garrett Kaminski. Freshman cornerback Zak Sedaros also got some valuable playing time.

Murtha had his best night of the season, particularly punting the ball.

“We had flashes in the pan, there’s no ifs ands or buts,” Smith said. “We’ve just now got to become a consistent football team. Again, we’re playing teams that are consistent football playoff teams.

“We’ve got to get the same consistency they’ve got. And youth is no longer an excuse in my mind. We have to remember that. At some point, the youth has to mature.”

Smith and the Hawks are hoping those positive moments will pay off when Viera travels to play Merritt Island (2-1), which is coming off a 10-9 victory over Astronaut.

It will be Viera’s fifth straight road game, including the Kickoff Classic.

“I think we’ll see the positives from this game more next week,” Smith said. “I have to wait to measure what’s positive. I have to see, do our kids come together, or do they listen to the naysayers that are going to say they’re washed up.

“I’ll make that judgement next week.”

As tough as the early part of the schedule has been, the Hawks still have their goals in front of them. District play doesn’t start until Sept. 28 when Viera will host Melbourne. The prize of a fifth straight district title and spot in the playoffs are still out there for the Hawks to chase.

And despite what people outside the program may think, Smith insists Viera is close to turning it all around.

“I think it’s going to take one good game, one good win,” he said. “We’ve got to get over the hump.”