‘Electric’ second half lifts Hawks to easy district win
Viera High sophomore wide receiver Donovan Giles (center) goes up to take the ball away from a Harmony defender and score a touchdown during Friday night's Class 7A, District 5 opener. The Hawks won the game 45-7.
VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala
ST. CLOUD – It wasn’t just one player.
It was every player.
And coming off a disappointing effort last week, it was just the kind of performance the Viera Hawks were looking for.
Leading 7-0 at the half, Viera scored 38 points in the final two quarters of Friday night’s Class 7A, District 5 opener to beat the host Harmony Longhorns 45-7.
“We needed this,” senior offensive tackle and co-captain Andrew Hart said.
Jeremiah Housey helped get the Viera offense going with a 7-yard touchdown pass from Bryce Norton in the first half and a 65-yard touchdown run on the Hawks’ first play of the second half that really seemed to ignite the offense.
Sophomore wide receiver Donovan Giles made the play of the night, ripping the ball away from a Harmony defender in the end zone to turn what would have been a drive-killing interception into a 16-yard touchdown.
Cooper Davis was not only a defense, forcing a fumble with a hard-hitting sack of Harmony’s quarterback, but also finishing off the scoring for the Hawks with a 34-yard touchdown pass from C.J. Simms that saw him shed two would-be tacklers.
And along the way, the Hawks got touchdown runs from Norton and Davis Mallinger, interceptions from Zak Sedaros and Austin Smith, a few nice plays out of the backfield from Danny Steen and a fumble recovery from Tyler Cooley among other top moments.
Hawks coach Derek Smith was pleased with the way his team was able to stick together and overcome a slow start to pick up the win.
“What I liked about this win was that things weren’t going as planned – again – in the first half,” Smith said. “What we keep trying to tell this football program is that it’s not about you, it’s about ‘we.’
“If we can understand that when one man is down, the other man needs to step up twice as big. In every game, there are going to be multiple plays where somebody is down and somebody’s going to have to step up.
“Tonight, we had players step up that haven’t ever made big plays yet. We stayed positive the entire game and you saw the results in the second half.”
After last week’s disappointing performance, the Hawks knew they needed to do more than just play better. They needed to be a better, closer team.
“Leading up to this game, we had some really good team bonding experiences,” Davis said. “We got to know each other a lot more and spent time as a family.”
Although Viera dominated much of the play in the first half, all the Hawks had to show for it was a 7-yard touchdown pass from Norton to Housey.
At halftime, Hart and Davis both said Housey challenged the team to put up more points on the board. Viera offensive coordinator Mike Degory challenged his players, too.
“Coach Degory challenged the offense to quit trying to make the spectacular play and just make the simple little league play,” Smith said. “Little league teaches you to run north and south, just plant your foot and go. Don’t try to make seven guys miss.
“When we got simple, it made it easy.”
The Hawks certainly put both of those challenges to good use on their first play of the third quarter as Viera’s offensive line made a nice hole for Housey, and he broke it 65 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-0.
“It was amazing,” Hart said. “It was definitely electrifying and I think that’s what we needed.
“We needed one play to get everyone going, everybody excited to give all their effort.”
After a 30-yard field goal by Nick Decker made it 17-0, the Hawks made their one big defensive mistake of the night when a missed tackle on a pass over the middle led to a long touchdown run for the Longhorns.
But the momentum swing didn’t last long.
Viera came right back with a 7-yard touchdown run by Norton. Davis Mallinger broke free and sprinted for a 50-yard TD.
Then, with Viera leading 31-7, Austin Smith’s first interception as a varsity player set the Hawks up for the most spectacular play of the night.
C.J. Simms, in for Norton at quarterback, rolled to his left under pressure and threw it up in the end zone where Giles was covered by two Harmony defenders.
But just as one of the defenders appeared to step in front of Giles for the interception, the 6-foot-4 sophomore went high in the air and reached over the defender to snatch the ball away and get the 16-yard touchdown.
“That play Giles made over there was phenomenal,” Smith said. “He did a great job.”
After Viera’s defense forced Harmony to punt again, Simms found the 6-foot-7 Davis, who shed a pair of Harmony defenders at the 5-yard line and finished off the 34-yard score for his third career touchdown.
“I heard them call the play and I was surprised, but excited,” Davis said. “I didn’t want to drop it. When I felt those two guys on me, I knew I couldn’t go down. I was too close.”
Viera, now 2-2 on the season, will host a good DeLand (3-1) team on Friday at 7 p.m. in what should be another big test.
And after scoring more points against Harmony (45) than in their three previous games combined (40), it’s safe to say the Hawks will go in with some renewed confidence.
The Hawks were certainly on a roll in the second half Friday night … and it felt good.
“Once you start rolling, it’s very exciting,” Hart said. “It’s electric.”