VIDEO: Viera Gears Up For 7A State Championship Matchup With St. Thomas Aquinas
By Alan Zlotorzynski // December 10, 2015
ABOVE VIDEO: Friday night locker room’s Steve Wilson, Orville Susong, Alan Zlotorzynski and Zach Clark break down Viera’s matchup with St. Thomas Aquinas Friday night in the Citrus Bowl.
BREVARD COUNTY • VIERA, FLORIDA – The underlying theme for the Viera Hawks this playoff season has been the new kids on the block versus the tradition rich football powerhouses.
First, there was the Lakeland Dreadnaughts and their six state championships and head coach Bill Castle, who was looking for win number 400 when Viera bounced them from the regional final two weeks back.
ABOVE VIDEO: Highlights and interviews following Viera’s victory in the state Regional Ginal. The Viera Hawks defeated Lakeland 24-14 Friday night to win the FHSAA Class 7A Regional Finals.
Then, Viera traveled to Lake City to play the Columbia Tigers in the state semifinal last week and while the Tigers aren’t rich in state championships (1967), they were considered to be a program that had reached heights the Hawks were seeking. Just like the week before against Lakeland, Viera, pulled away and easily defeated the Tigers, 42-23.
This Friday night at the Orlando Citrus Bowl (7:00 P.M. WPIO 89.3 & 90.3 as well as streaming on Space Coast Daily), the Hawks will face arguably the most tradition rich high school football team, not just in the state of Florida but perhaps in all the United States, the Saint Thomas Aquinas Raiders.
The tradition is well documented and if you don’t know it, all you have to do is log on to their website and they will make sure you get a glimpse of their state championship rings and trophies.
The Raiders have won five state titles since 2007 and eight overall, which is only five less than the entire county of Brevard has won since Melbourne High School won the first in 1966.
ABOVE VIDEO: The Viera Hawks sideline erupts in celebration as time expires in their big 42-23 win over the Columbia Tigers in the Class 7A FHSAA state semifinal game. Up next, defending 7A state champ, St. Thomas Aquanis.
Since 1971, St. Thomas has captured 30 district championships. In fact, St. Thomas has dropped only two district games since 1996 and won their district every year since then with the exception of 2011.
More impressive than the championships may be the list of former Aquinas players playing on Sundays.
When the 53 man rosters were finalized this past September in the NFL, Aquinas had 17 players in the league (16 active 1 on practice squad) —this was by far the most of any high school in the country.
The hometown (sort of) Jacksonville Jaguars had the most with three former Raiders.
Current NFL Hall of Famer and former Dallas Cowboy wide receiver, Michael Irvin attended Aquinas and by the way, his son, Michael Irvin II, will lineup against the Hawks on Friday night.
ABOVE VIDEO: St Thomas Aquinas’ Michael Irvin II highlight reel.
The Raiders have NFL & division 1 college football pedigree all over their roster and coaching staff– their fans continuously chant “D1 Bound” — but what does all of this mean to the Viera Hawks—–not one thing.
At least to this point in the FHSAA state playoffs, the Hawks have not been intimated by one team, player or venue and it is highly doubtful playing Aquinas in the Citrus Bowl will do anything other than sharpen their focus to finish the task at hand, which is to bring home Brevard County’s 14th state title.
The Hawks are not a Cinderella story. Cinderella stories come and go, this is a program that has arrived and there are several reasons it has happened this year.
The first has to be this seasons schedule. Criticized by many in the media last season for playing a “soft” schedule but going undefeated, the Hawks were beaten soundly in the first round of the playoffs in 2014.
ABOVE VIDEO: Steve Wilson from the Friday Night Locker Room talks with Tre Nixon who caught a TD pass in Hawks state semifinals victory.
This year, the four loss Hawks are state finals bound thanks to hard fought contests against the Cocoa Tigers, Palm Bay Pirates and a team that arguably, stacks up as stiffer completion for Viera than does St. Thomas Aquinas, the Eagles of Allen Texas.
The Hawks enter Friday’s title game battled tested. They scored the third most points during the regular season against an Allen Eagles team that ranks No.17 nationally and only lost to Cocoa, Palm Bay & Kathleen, all playoff teams in 2015, by a combined 16 points.
ABOVE VIDEO: Space Coast Daily’s Zach Clark talks with players and coaches after the Viera Hawks crushed Martin County 47-17 in a Regional Semifinals playoff game on Friday, Nov. 20, 2015 in Viera. Video also includes game highlight clips.
Aside from the fact that the Hawks are a very good team, they have a bit of history and tradition to fall back on. Many of the current members of the Hawks having been playing in the Viera youth football program since its inception in 2004.
As guests in studio for Saturday’s Mouthin Off Sports Talk show, (AM 1060 WMEL), Stephanie Kingston, the mother of Viera QB Hayden Kingston, told Alan Zlotorzynski and Zach Cark that Hayden has been a QB since he was five years old— throwing, handing off and playing with many of his current Viera teammates.
Viera Hawks cornerback and running back Jay Boyd, who has been a huge catalyst for the team all year and especially during the playoffs (2 INT’s last week & a receiving TD) joined what was called the Viera / Suntree Lightning Youth Football Program in 2010.
For obvious reasons, one of which is to produce players that play and stay together, the program changed their name to the Hawks prior to the start of this past season.
ABOVE VIDEO: Viera’s Trevor Merritt Speaks To SCD/FNLR After Playoff Win against Harmony.
While Saint Thomas has a great tradition of talent, many of the kids transfer in from other schools across the state and even the country. While that might be a completive advantage, Hawks fans and coaches know that when their team takes the field Friday night, the best the Hawks have to offer have been lacing up their cleats together since they began playing the game of football.
If what is happening beneath the Varsity team is any indication, this a program that is going to stay on the scene for years to come in Florida High School football.
ABOVE VIDEO: Hayden Kingston after Viera defeats Harmony 38-8.
The JV squad is 15-0 spanning the previous two seasons and the youth program brought home titles in several more tackle divisions this year as well.
While St. Thomas is tradition rich, in terms of winning state championships, it’s fair to say that there was a starting point.
Every great program in any sport that wins repeatedly or is tagged with the definition of being a dynasty has a point where it all began—based on this writer’s observations, the starting point for the 2015 Viera Hawks was four years ago, when the kids that played together for all of those years in youth football took the field for their freshman season.
Tradition also means consistency and that is being taken care of by head coach Kevin Mays. A graduate of Palm Bay High School, Mays is finishing his 18th year of coaching in Brevard County and he brought the experience of 13 state playoff appearances and coaching on two state championship teams to Viera with him in 2011.
Mays was 6-14 in his first two years but since 2013, his squad, this squad, is 27-7. The fit was perfect and it’s clear that if Coach Mays wants to, he will continue to be the rock that holds this foundation solid for years to come building on the winning tradition created when his team went 8-2 in 2013.
The word tradition also tends to invoke thoughts of other words such as “older” and “history” but there is no definitive time frame when it comes to establishing a tradition and carrying that tradition forward, especially a winning tradition such as the one this senior class is leaving behind.
The road is now paved and the future of Viera football is a bright one in the sunshine state, Hayden Kingston, Evan Cruz, Asa Anderson, Brian Pickles, Kyle Troiano, Hunter Ulrich, Austin Roberts, Jay Boyd, Tre Nixon and Marco Foreman have already experienced winning championships together at the youth level and if the Hawks play their game, as they have throughout their current seven game winning streak, they should experience one more.
About the Author
Alan Zlotorzynski hosts Mouthin Off Sports Talk on AM 1060 WMEL Wednesday from 11-12 p.m., Friday 11-12 p.m. and Saturday 2-4 p.m. He is also a member of the Friday Night Locker Room play-by-play crew providing color and analysis for high school sports. Follow Alan on Twitter @zlotsports.