ORLANDO – The final game of the season didn’t go the way the Viera Hawks wanted it to.
Not even close.
Playing on the road against a talented team from Edgewater, the Hawks knew they would have to be at their best if they were going to upset the Eagles. Unfortunately for Viera, things went downhill on the opening kickoff and stayed that way for the rest of the night.
But in the wake of their 59-0 loss to Edgewater in the Class 7A regional semifinals, the Hawks chose not to focus on one game, but on a season of accomplishment – a brotherhood that will last a lifetime.
And for the 22 seniors on this year’s roster, a career to remember.
“The only word I can say is, ‘incredible,’” senior wide receiver Caleb Osburn said. “I learned from everybody else that came before me. I tried to take after them as much as I could.
“I had some down years. My sophomore and junior years weren’t what I expected. But I worked hard this offseason and I came out this season faster and stronger than I’ve been before. I had the best season I’ve had in my four years (29 catches, 753 yards, six touchdowns). It was great.
“But the biggest thing is, this is the best team I’ve ever played for. Everyone else was saying we were going to be terrible, that we weren’t going to make it this far. We were highly doubted by everybody. The best thing for me is that we came together and we did prove everybody wrong despite how this game turned out.
“It’s just been a blessing to be on this team.”
As Osburn eluded to, there were some doubts about this year’s Viera team after the defection of nine starters from the 2019 team. A few crucial injuries throughout the season didn’t help, either. And don’t forget the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic which forced a later start to the season, the forfeiture of a scheduled game against Melbourne, and all of the other protocols and safety measures that came with it.
However, the Hawks still went 6-4, won two playoff games by a combined total of 77-0 and were just one of four Brevard County teams to reach the regional semifinals.
“These guys will remember every bit of what they did,” Viera coach Derek Smith said.
Edgewater, which was ranked No. 13 in the state by MaxPreps, opened Friday’s game by returning the kickoff to the Viera 23-yard-line. The Eagles scored shortly thereafter and the Hawks could never gain traction.
Viera’s biggest moment of the night came when junior defensive end Connor Nelson hit Edgewater quarterback Canaan Mobley just as he was trying to throw. The ball popped up in the air and was intercepted by junior defensive tackle Jamari Lyons.
Other than that, the game belonged to the Eagles.
“It steamrolled fast,” Smith said. “But I ended the game letting the seniors ride it out. The bottom line is the measure of a man is not how you act when you’re on top. It’s how you act when things are hurting.
“This group has each other’s back. This group’s going to transform into life because I think we’ve learned this year with COVID that life’s not going to be easy. If these men take the (lessons) they’ve learned throughout this football season into their future adult lives, there’s no doubt we’ve got great men of the future.
“And that’s what I want. Great men of the future.”
It was the final game for seniors Ty Cooley; Zak Sedaros (the FACA Class 7A Player of the Year); Nolan Helton; Osburn; Preston Foreman; Bryce Reynolds; Ben Shaffer; Blake Starrett; James Goffigan; Aidan Davis; Aiden Ferrer; Josh Kelly; Nate Acevedo; Ethan Maden; Gavin Beck; Tommy Arevalos; Jackson Hatfield; Tyler Matas; Brady Touzet; Jake Koons; Cooper Liston and Justin Humphreys.
“This senior class understands what dedication, teamwork and grit is,” Smith said. “That’s what it is. They’re dedicated to each other, they have grit and they knew what teamwork was.”
As Friday night’s game ended, the emotions were everywhere. Some seniors sat on the field for a while, contemplating the end of the season and their careers. Teammates hugged. Fathers and sons hugged. And at least two knelt in prayer.
“You’ve got to be realistic. They were just bigger and faster,” Osburn said. “We did what we could do. We obviously could do a lot more. But I wanted to go out with a bang. I wanted to play my heart out until the last play and I feel like that’s what we did.
“I’m proud of this team, no matter what happened.”