VIDEO: FNLR Previews State Semifinal Matchup: Viera Hawks vs Columbia Tigers
By Alan Zlotorzynski // December 4, 2015
Game Slated For 7:30 p.m.
ABOVE VIDEO: FNLR crew previews state semifinal matchup: Viera Hawks @ Columbia Tigers. (Zach Clark, SpaceCoastDaily Video)
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Tonight, the Viera Hawks (9-4) are set to do battle with the Columbia Tigers (10-1) in Lake City, Florida, for a trip to the FHSSA Class 7A State Championsip game. The game can be heard here on SpaceCoastDaily.com brought to you by the Friday Night Locker Room.
Road here: Viera d. Harmony, 38-6; d. Martin County, 47-17; d. Lakeland, 24-14; Columbia d. Tallahassee Chiles, 42-27; d. Tallahassee Lincoln, 57-20; d. Bartram Trail, 51-14.
Winner gets: The St. Thomas Aquinas-Bradenton Braden River winner in the state championship game on Dec. 11 at 7:07 p.m. in the Orlando Citrus Bowl.
After finishing the 2014 season 9-0 and earning their first ever FHSSA playoff berth, the Viera Hawks were soundly beaten at home in the first round of the playoffs. The experience of that playoff loss coupled with arguably the toughest schedule in Brevard County, this season has the Hawks primed for a trip to the State Finals next week with a victory over Columbia tonight.
The Hawks enter the contest battled tested after games this season vs. Allen Texas (ranked #17, according to USA Today), Cocoa Tigers, Palm Bay Pirates and Kathleen Red Devils.
While the Hawks did not win those games, it prepared them for the current playoff success they are experiencing. They scored the third most points against the Allen Eagles defense during the regular season. Viera’s other losses were against Cocoa, Palm Bay and Kathleen. All playoff teams this season, Viera only lost by a combined 16 points in those three losses.
A team not as battled tested as Viera may not have been able to put away a perennial state powerhouse like the Lakeland Dreadnaughts last week.
The Dreadnaughts came into Viera seeking their 63rd playoff win and Head Coach Bill Castle’s 400th career victory. Last Friday, Viera jumped to a quick 14-0 lead. The Naughts battled back to tie the game at 14 in the 3rd quarter. However, it was Viera’s night as they pulled away to win by 10, 24-14, to advance to tonight’s state semifinal.
Tonight’s game is once again against another perennial November-December powerhouse in the state of Florida but the conventional wisdom is that Viera will not, even if they advance, play a team tougher and better than the Allen Eagles or with the current playoff resume as the Cocoa Tigers, who have advanced to the state semifinals five years in a row after winning three straight state championships under Head Coach John Wilkinson.
The Columbia Tigers have won 96 of their previous 135 games (.711 winning percentage) and are coached by former Florida State Seminole and NFL alum Brian Allen. Very similar to Viera, the Tigers possess a high powered offensive attack that scored 557 points and had a point differential higher (291) than the total points scored by any other team in their district—for the entire season.
This one will come down to the first and third ranked passers in the state of Florida, QB’s Davin Schuck of Columbia and Hayden Kingston of Viera.
Only 61 yards separates the two signal callers who have thrown for a combined 6,901 yards and 71 touchdowns. Kingston, a senior and Schuck a junior, are a major reason why their teams are playing the first Friday in December. When it comes to the interception category, Schuck has tossed 13 picks to Kingston’s 9 this season.
Each kid has a lot of weapons to throw the ball to. For Columbia, they are led by Senior WR Dallon Washington (1,203 & 13 TD’s), the Tigers are deep at the wide out position. Senior Latrell Williams hauled in 60 passes this season. Schuck has four WR’s that have registered at least 30 catches and six touchdowns in 2015.
Viera boasts two 1,000 yard and double digit TD pass catchers in their arsenal. Tre Nixon and Alex Cabrera have combined to haul in 124 passes for 2,206 yards and 30 TD receptions this season. Cabrera scored all three of the Hawks touchdowns in last week’s win over Lakeland, including a 50 yard bubble screen from Kingston that went the distance to put the Hawks ahead and secure their berth in the State Semifinal.
The Hawks will have to account for Junior RB Kamario Bell who rushed for nearly 1,200 yards and 16 TD’s this season for Columbia.
With only 61 yards separating these QB’s, you may as well flip a coin. If you love offense, sit back and enjoy the aerial show. If there is one slight advantage it would be that Columbia appears to have one or two more playmakers on offense. However, Viera’s senior QB Hayden Kingston spreads the ball out and has hit 10 different receivers this season.
Defensively, getting after the passer and playing smart in the secondary will be key tonight. For Columbia they sacked opposing quarterbacks 47.5 times and picked off those signal callers 20 times. Senior Middle Line Backer Laqavious Paul registered 40 percent of his teams QB take downs with 19 on the season. Three Tiger DB’s recorded five passing thefts in 2015, CB Alfonso Battle, CB Dayton Sheppard and strong safety Kenny Johnson will be looking to shut down Cabrera and Nixon and add to their total of five INT’s each this season.
With all of the offense from Kingston and company, Viera’s ball Hawk-ing (pun intended) defensive play vs. Lakeland last week allowed the Green & Gold to advance to this week. Defensive Coordinator Derek Smith put together a masterful game plan for the Hawks defense. One of the standouts, for Viera’s defense is Brandon Mays who has racked in 138 tackles. Other names of note for Viera include: Zack Blanch, Marco Foreman, Riley Morris, Justin Harrison, Miguel Rodriguez, Matt Martorelli, Jamyson Boyd, Evan Cruz, Malek Folston, Trevor Merritt and Will Champion, who can all make plays and play hard.
Averaging 6.5 sacks per game in 2015, the Hawks defense sacked opposing QB’s 80 times this season—-no—that’s not a misprint.
Led by Junior Marco Foreman’s 18 sacks, at least six Hawk defenders registered seven or more sacks this season, including 13 by sophomore Miguel Rodriguez. For the secondary, Jamyson (Jay) Boyd picked off seven passes this season, with six other Hawks defenders recording at least one pick.
The Hawks were magnificent last week in their bend but don’t break defense. Dreadnaught RB AJ Davis got his yards but Viera kept him between the 20’s, for the most part.
This is where Viera’s strength of schedule helps out having faced some of the best QB’s and RB’s in the area not to mention Mitchell Jonke from the Allen Eagles.
The Hawks can get after the QB, while Tigers QB Davin Schuck can be fleet on his feet (390 rushing yards 6 rushing TD’s) the Hawks should be able to apply pressure in this game.
I like the way Jay Boyd and the Hawks secondary is playing and look for a big, game changing play, from them in this contest.
If you like high scoring aerial attacks in your football, this is your game. There is no reason not to expect both teams to score a ton of a points. However, in games like these, one turnover, one mistake and your shot at the Citrus Bowl is gone. Viera may not have scored as many points as Columbia this season, but the Hawks are playing hot at the right time. With a record of 3-4 back on October 10, Viera has won six straight, including three in a row in the postseason.
Their margin of victory is nearly 32 points in those games. The time seems right for the senior class of the Hawks to at least reach an opportunity to finish what they started four years ago.
SCD-FNLR PREDICTION: Viera 38, Columbia 31