Hawks blow out St. Cloud to set up district title game against Melbourne

Viera High's Cameron Mills breaks through the line on his way to a 50-yard touchdown run as the Hawks defeated the visiting St. Cloud Bulldogs 49-6 Friday night at Hawk Stadium. Mills, who had not played running back since his Pop Warner days, had a big night as Viera set up next week's showdown with Melbourne in a game that will decide the district championship.

The stage is now set.

When the Melbourne Bulldogs come to Viera next Friday, the Class 7A, District 7 championship will be on the line.

The Hawks made sure of that last night, blowing out the visiting St. Cloud Bulldogs 49-6 to make their homecoming game a successful one.

Quarterback C.J. Simms hit Quincy Gillins for a pair of touchdown passes and ran for two more scores as Viera improved to 5-2 overall on the season, 3-0 in district play.

With starting running back Judah Knight unavailable, the Hawks also got a strong performance from junior Cameron Mills, who broke off a 50-yard touchdown run and had a number of other impressive moments in his first game at running back since his Pop Warner days.

Defensively, linebacker Jack Hathaway returned an interception for a touchdown and the Hawks got a big boost with the return of linebacker Johnny Eaton, who was thought to be lost for the season with an arm injury.az

Viera, which has won six straight district championships, can secure No. 7 if the Hawks can get past the Bulldogs (6-2, 3-0) next Friday.

“We talk about it every year, the bottom line is … your schedule can be your schedule, but it’s about the district games,” Viera coach Derek Smith said. “Win the district games, you’ve done everything. Who cares if you’re ranked, or not ranked. If you win your district, you punch your ticket to the playoffs.

“And the only way to win your district is to win your district games. That’s the goal, to win the district every year. This was the last district game before Melbourne. Next Friday is the district championship.”

Smith was certainly happy with the way his team executed in all three phases of the game against St. Cloud.

From University of Florida commit Jamari Lyons blowing up a trick play and forcing a fumble on St. Cloud’s first offensive snap to the way Simms and the offense distributed the ball and moved downfield to an onside kick by Jared Perdomo that was recovered at midfield, the Hawks dominated this one from start to finish.

St. Cloud won the toss and deferred to the second half, giving the Hawks a chance to get on top right away … which is exactly what they did.

Mills, who has been playing defensive back for Viera this season, opened the game for the Hawks with a pair of 15-yard runs.

“My last time playing running back was probably Pop Warner,” Mills said. “… My first time, it felt pretty good. I know I can do better, though. I’ve just got to bring my ‘A’ game.”

After Simms rolled out and hit Dominick Gentile on a pass down to the 1-yard line, freshman running back Jayden Carney powered into the end zone to give Viera a 7-0 lead.

St. Cloud (2-6) tried to catch the Viera defense off-guard on its first play, running a jet sweep that saw the runner pull up as if to pass. However, Lyons came up and delivered a bone-crushing hit that had the ball pop straight up in the air, where it was eventually recovered by the Hawks at the 20-yard line.

One play later, Simms threw to the end zone where Gillins – with a defensive back draped all over him – managed to come down with the ball and give the Hawks a 14-0 lead.

It was the 12th touchdown pass of the year for Simms, who came into the game averaging 320.2 yards a contest, which ranked second in the state according to MaxPreps.

Viera would get the ball again at midfield and this time it was Mills’ turn to reach the end zone. The junior broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and simply outran the St. Cloud defense into the end zone for a 50-yard touchdown.

“He messed up when he let me go,” Mills said of the broken tackle. “I had to turn on the jets.”

For a guy who hadn’t played running back in a long time, Mills looked like a natural out there.

“He had a phenomenal night,” Smith said. “He showed that sometimes you’ve got to step up to the occasion. We’ve had a slew of injuries and with our slew of injuries, other kids have had to step up and make plays. That’s the only thing you can do.”

Simms would lead Viera on another scoring drive, taking it in from a yard out to make it 28-0 and putting the Hawks in a position to make it a running clock in the second half if they could get one more score.

Viera had two possessions inside the St. Cloud 5-yard line, but couldn’t cash in.

That is, until Hathaway stepped in front of a St. Cloud pass around the 10-yard line and took it in for the score.

Viera would add another touchdown before the half when Simms hit Gillins with a 10-yard touchdown pass that saw the receiver do a nice job of keeping his feet inbounds to make it 42-0 at the half.

The only scoring in the second half came on a 39-yard run by Simms.

St. Cloud would score late in the game on a touchdown pass against Viera’s second-string defense to avoid the shutout.

It was a strong performance by the Hawks, who have now won five of their last six games. It was also one of the first times this season when Viera went into a game heavily favored and came away with a lopsided victory.

“It was execution on both sides of the ball,” Smith said.

The Hawks will certainly need to be good in all areas of the game if they hope to get by the Melbourne Bulldogs next week.

Getting Eaton back gives them a big boost. The linebacker, who was cleared to play earlier in the week, wore a big cast on his arm, but said it didn’t hamper his play. He just wasn’t happy with the way he performed.

“It felt so good (to be back on the field),” Eaton said. “I was so hyped for this game. I’m just mad at how I played. It’s so frustrating.”

Eaton might not have played his best game, but the Hawks were certainly glad to have one of their team captains and emotional leaders back on the field.

“He doesn’t have to make a lot of plays,” Smith said. “His emotion is what we want back.”