Tigers score 39 unanswered points to pull away from Hawks

Viera wide receiver Reece Reynolds (left) holds onto the ball despite a big hit during Friday night's game against the Cocoa Tigers. Reynolds' catch, on fourth-and-15 would give Viera a first down and the Hawks would eventually score to take a 7-0 lead. However, Cocoa would score 39 unanswered points to win the game 39-14.

COCOA – The Viera Hawks couldn’t have asked for a better way to start Friday night’s showdown with Cocoa.

But the rest of the night was all Tigers.

Viera scored on its first possession of the night, but Cocoa reeled off 39 unanswered points on the way to defeating the visiting Hawks 39-14 at Dick Blake Stadium.

Although the loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Hawks (4-2 overall, 2-0 in Class 7A, District 7), everything Viera wants to accomplish this season is still in front of it, provided the team takes the lessons learned Friday and moves forward.

“What has to come out of this is that we … we, as in Coach Smith on down, have to take responsibility for everything we do, win or lose,” Viera coach Derek Smith said.

“And rather than point fingers, figure out what we can do as individuals to make ourselves better as an individual and better as a team. Nothing more than that.”

Viera opened the game by going on a 78-yard drive that took nearly eight minutes off the clock and included three fourth-down conversions.

Running back Judah Knight and quarterback C.J. Simms both ran for first downs in fourth-and-short situations on that drive.

Then, with Viera facing third-and-15 at the Cocoa 30, the Hawks missed what would have likely been an easy touchdown on a crossing route where there were no Tiger defenders in the vicinity of the receiver.

Rather than try a long field goal, the Hawks went for it and Simms scrambled and found junior receiver Reece Reynolds, who held onto the ball after absorbing a big hit, for a 25-yard gain down to the Cocoa 5.

Knight would eventually score on a 1-yard run and the Hawks had a 7-0 lead with 4:26 to play in the quarter.

Cocoa (5-1) would answer with a quick touchdown drive of its own, but a missed extra point would keep the Hawks in the lead, 7-6, at the end of the first quarter.

However, as well as things went for the Hawks on that first drive, Viera couldn’t put together anything consistent against a Tigers defense that was faster and more athletic than the Hawks.

Simms, who is often effective pulling down the ball and scrambling, saw those holes close up quickly against Cocoa’s defense.

Cocoa’s offense, meanwhile, was able to consistently move the ball downfield against Viera and took a 19-7 lead into the half.

Despite at least one Cocoa coach yelling for his team to watch out for the onside kick to start the third quarter, Viera’s Jared Perdomo executed it perfectly and Connor Yancey recovered to give the ball to the Hawks at midfield.

However, Viera was unable to move the ball and was forced to punt.

Cocoa, meanwhile, continued to show why it’s the top-ranked team in Brevard County and why it’s considered a strong contender to win the Class 4A state championship this season.

The Tigers really turned it on in the second half, scoring three more times to make it 39-7.

To Viera’s credit, the Hawks put together a drive at the end of the fourth quarter, scoring on a 1-yard run by Simms with 16 seconds remaining.

“Execution,” Smith said afterward. “In any aspect of the game, we’ve got to execute. We missed blocks, dropped balls, miscues on the pass, missed tackles, getting burnt … miscues all the way around.

“Obviously, the first drive showed that if we execute, we have the capability of it. We lost execution (after that).”

Viera has three games remaining in the regular season, including back-to-back district home games against St. Cloud (2-5, 0-2) and Melbourne (5-2, 3-0) beginning next week.

The Hawks are going for their seventh straight district championship and a spot in the Class 7A regional playoffs.