Shane Staples could have ensured his first season as head coach of the Viera Hawks would be a success by scheduling a bunch of easy non-district football games.
But that’s never been Viera’s style, and it’s certainly not the case for Staples.
Of the 10 teams the Hawks are scheduled to play this season, only two of them had a losing record in 2021. Eight of them made the playoffs, with six advancing to at least the regional semifinals, two reaching the state semifinals and one playing for the state championship.
The Hawks will also be playing two teams for the first time.
“We’re still playing some tough games,” Staples said. “We don’t have a cupcake schedule. We get to travel to Jacksonville the first week and play a Creekside team that was pretty good last year. I feel like this new district is going to be pretty tough.
“And then the out-of-district games … these are all teams that are expected to make the playoffs.”
After playing the Kickoff Classic Game at Eau Gallie on Aug. 19, the Hawks are scheduled to open the season on the road at Creekside in the first meeting between the two schools. The Knights went 8-3 last season.
Viera’s first home game of the year is set for Sept. 2 at home against a Satellite team coming off a big 2021 season in which it went 10-3 and made the Class 5A regional finals.
After a trip to play Rockledge at McLarty Stadium on Sept. 9, it’s back home for Viera’s first-ever meeting with Bishop Moore. The Hornets may have gone 5-7 last year, but they still made the regional semifinals.
If there is a non-district home game to circle on the schedule, it’s easily Sept. 23 when Baker County and former Viera coach Kevin Mays come to town.
While Viera’s game at Baker County last year was built as a matchup between two childhood friends — Mays and Viera’s Derek Smith — this year’s game still has a familial tone in that Mays is the one who hired Staples at Viera and the two are also friends.
Viera won last year’s game, but Baker County went on to play in the Class 5A state semifinals and should be good again.
The final five games include three Class 4S District 11 matchups, beginning Sept. 30 at Heritage. That’s followed by a game at Bayside (Oct. 7) and a district home clash with Harmony (Oct. 14).
The Hawks have a bye week before closing out the regular season with a district road game at Melbourne (Oct. 28) that could decide the title, then a matchup at home against 2021 Class 5A state runner-up Merritt Island on Nov. 4.
“We’re playing a lot of teams very similar to us,” Staples said. “I have a feeling there are going to be a lot of good games. Our kids are going to have to learn how to win close ballgames, I have a feeling.
“I think that’s going to make it fun.”