Hawks rally past Harmony for fourth straight win

Viera High sophomore running back Judah Knight shakes off a tackle during Friday night's Class 7A, District 7 game at Harmony. Knight made a number of big plays and scored Viera's final touchdown as the Hawks rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit to beat the Longhorns 39-31.

HARMONY – The Viera Hawks have done it again.

For the second week in a row, the Hawks overcame the kind of adversity that would have disheartened them in the past and came away with a dramatic, hard-fought victory.

Trailing by 14 points on the road with under five minutes left in the third quarter, Viera got touchdowns from Donovan Giles, C.J. Simms and Judah Knight – not to mention an improbable two-point conversion by kicker Jared Perdomo – to rally past the Harmony Longhorns, 39-31, Friday night in a Class 7A, District 7 matchup.

“We’re just hungry, man,” Knight said. “We had a tough loss in Week 1 and we’re just hungry.”

Viera (4-1 overall, 2-0 district) has won four in a row since that opening week loss and will now have two weeks to prepare for its game against loaded Class 4A state title contender Cocoa (3-1).

Friday night’s win over Harmony was, once again, an example of how much better the Hawks have been – particularly on defense -- in the second halves of games this season.

Just as in last week’s 28-25 win over Eau Gallie, the Viera defense struggled in the first half. The difference was the Commodores hurt Viera in the passing game. The Longhorns run the triple option and only dropped back to pass four times in the entire game – all on their last drive.

With junior running back Tyler Emans leading the way, the Longhorns scored on all four of their first half possessions, including touchdown runs of 65 and 74 yards by Emans.

However, Viera’s offense, which has gotten off to slow starts all season, was clicking early, too.

Knight helped get the Hawks going on the game’s opening drive, breaking a tackle after a short pass by Simms and racing 64 yards to the Harmony 10. From there, Cohen Graham-Johnson scored on a reverse and, after a misplay on the point-after attempt, Viera led 6-0 early.

“I just felt like C.J. calmed down a little bit, our O-line stepped up, we had a good week of practice and I just had to do it for my team tonight,” Knight said of Viera’s quick start.

After Harmony took a 7-6 lead, the Hawks went 80 yards, scoring on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Simms to Quincy Gillins. Simms scored on a two-point conversion attempt and Viera led 14-7.

A 29-yard field goal by Perdomo would eventually make it a 17-14 Viera lead, but the Longhorns finished the first half strong with Emans’ 74-yard touchdown run and a 46-yard field goal to make it 24-17 Harmony at the half.

While the Hawks were certainly in the game, they clearly had to make some adjustments on defense if they were going to overtake the Longhorns.

And that’s exactly what Viera coach Derek Smith did, moving Connor Nelson from defensive end to defensive tackle, Cam Mills from cornerback to linebacker and bringing in Chase Lohman at defensive end.

“I think putting those three guys in changed it a little bit,” Smith said.

So did the play of Viera defensive tackle Jamari Lyons.

The four-star recruit – who will announce his college commitment on Wednesday – came up with a number of big tackles in the second half for the Hawks.

“I had to man up,” Lyons said. “Can’t go outside, so I had to do what I had to do.”

Lyons also showed a lot of leadership throughout the game, addressing the defense at halftime and, on the field, letting his play do most of the talking.

“I’m trying to be a leader,” he said. “I’m trying to lead my team to a victory, to the playoffs and maybe to the state championship. That’s our goal. I’m trying to get better as a man and help my teammates out.”

It was Lyons’ stop of Emans on third down that led to the first Harmony punt of the night in the third quarter.

Viera appeared to be in business on a long pass from Simms to Dominick Gentile down to the Harmony 35, but it was wiped out by a penalty and the Hawks were forced to punt.

The snap was mishandled, the punt was blocked and Harmony took over first-and-goal, scoring one play later to make it a 31-17 game.

It looked like the Hawks were in big trouble, until the very next offensive play. Giles got behind the Harmony defense and Simms hit him in stride as the senior wide receiver raced 84 yards for a touchdown to make it 31-24 with 4:28 left in the third quarter.

The Harmony offense, which couldn’t be stopped in the first half, suddenly found itself bogged down as multiple Viera defenders arrived to make tackles.

Finally, Viera got the break it was looking for when Mills recovered a Harmony fumble at the Longhorns’ 40-yard line just before the end of the third quarter.

Knight keyed the drive, carrying the ball down to the Harmony 10, but Viera faced a fourth-and-goal from just outside the 1-yard line. Simms dropped back to pass, bought some time in the pocket, and then ran it in for the touchdown and suddenly the Hawks were just an extra-point away from tying the game.

Except, that’s not how it went down.

The snap got away from the holder. Perdomo picked up the ball and outran the Harmony defense to the right pylon for a two-point conversion that put the Hawks in the lead 32-31 with 8:35 remaining on the clock.

Who knew Perdomo was so fast?

“Jared Perdomo showed some guts, running that one to the outside,” Smith said. “He hit some good kickoffs when we needed it. He fumbled the ball a little bit on the punt, but Jared Perdomo had a short memory and did a great job stepping up.”

Viera had the lead, but Harmony had the ball and plenty of time to drive the field.

But once again, Viera’s defense came up big when it had to. Nelson made a big tackle on second down and Connor Yancey made the stop on third down to bring up fourth-and-3.

Harmony lined up as if to go for it, or perhaps try to draw Viera offside, but called time out with 5:18 to play and then punted. A penalty on Viera on the punt, followed by a false start, pushed the Hawks back to their own 15.

That’s when Giles stepped up big.

A quick pass to the outside looked like it was about to get picked off by a Harmony defender when the Viera receiver reached out to snag the pass, then broke free down the left sideline.

“That was a man’s play right there,” Smith said.

Giles ended up at the Harmony 17, but another Viera penalty pushed the ball back to the 37.

Simms then scrambled and was hit late, ultimately resulting in two penalties on Harmony that put the ball at the 6.

Knight took it from there, scoring to put the Hawks up by eight points.

“All night I felt like I was hitting the hole way too fast instead of letting my O-line get in front of me,” Knight said. “That last play, I just slow-played it a little bit, let them block down and then I cut back and it was a wide-open hole.”

Harmony had not attempted a single pass the entire game at that point, but with the way Viera’s defense was shutting down the running game – and with under three minutes to play – the Longhorns had no choice.

A half-back option pass resulted in a pass interference on Viera and kept the drive alive. But on third-and-7 from midfield, Viera linebacker Andreas Foreman came charging up the middle for a sack that pushed the Longhorns all the way back to their own 43.

Harmony’s fourth-down attempt fell incomplete with 1:02 remaining and the Hawks ran out the clock.

It was quite a win for Viera, which was already dealing with the loss of linebacker Johnny Eaton for the season and then saw Graham-Johnson and center Maguire Pedrick go down during Friday night’s game.

Freshman Finn Goldinger, who had just moved into the starting lineup at left guard, took over at center in the second half with Nick Desimone coming in at guard to join tackles Kyle Bortz and Logan Keith, along with guard Hayes Kingston.

“I think he did a good job,” Smith said of Goldinger.

“The kid’s a freshman. I mean, just asking him to be on the field’s crazy, let alone play good.”

With Viera’s previously-postponed game against Vero Beach now off the schedule, the Hawks won’t play again until they visit Cocoa on Oct. 15.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be anything exciting happening for Viera this upcoming week.

Lyons will announce which college he will be committing to on Wednesday, his mother’s birthday. The two finalists are Florida and South Carolina.

“I can’t wait,” Lyons said. “It’s going to be a blast.”