The Viera Hawks have one more hurdle to overcome before they can claim a third straight district title.
But they sure took a big step toward it Friday night.
Will Champion ran for two touchdowns and Brandon Mays had a 2-yard touchdown run and a 35-yard interception return for a score as the Hawks defeated visiting Martin County 55-24 at Hawk Stadium to improve to 2-0 in Class 7A, District 6.
Viera (5-2) has a bye week before heading to South Fork on Oct. 28, where the Hawks can clinch the outright district crown with a victory.
In the meantime, there will be plenty to savor about this one.
With an injury list that already included starting running back Brennen DePlancke, the Hawks had to deal with injuries to two more starters Friday night when defensive lineman Justin Harrison and wide receiver Travis Jones went down (though Jones would eventually return).
On top of that, the penalty problems that plagued Viera early in the season reared their ugly head again as the Hawks were flagged for a number of critical penalties early in the game.
However, Viera got through it with the play of guys like Mike Vega, who raced 74 yards for a touchdown. Or Keith Freeman, who ran 11 times for 65 yards and scored on a 3-yard touchdown run.
Don Jackson turned a quick out from quarterback Tim DeMorat into a 41-yard sprint to the end zone.
Defensive back Cortez Reid turned in perhaps the biggest play of the game, intercepting a Martin County pass and returning it to the Tigers’ 8-yard line. That set up an 8-yard touchdown run by Jaren Lewis with 2:33 remaining in the second quarter that allowed Viera to stretch its lead to 28-10.
Garrett Kaminski also had an interception which the Hawks would eventually convert into a touchdown.
“It was a good team win,” Viera coach Kevin Mays said. “With DePlancke getting hurt, and then Travis and then Justin, we tried to go with the next man up mentality and we expect them to do the same job that the guy in front of them had done.
“They played great tonight.”
The Hawks also introduced a power running formation that featured Champion at tailback with Brandon Mays and Connor Kaminski (Harrison was in for a play, too) at the fullback spots.
Champion scored on runs of 2 and 11 yards, while Mays also took the ball in from two yards out.
“It was a lot of fun,” Brandon Mays said of getting a chance to carry the ball. “… At the beginning of the season, we were having a hard time with those short-yardage plays, so we put that in there.
“It worked out pretty good tonight.”
Now the Hawks, last year’s Class 7A state runner-up, are just another win away from securing a spot in the postseason and going on what they hope will be another run to the state finals.
For that reason, it’s easy to say that Friday night’s game was the most important one Viera has played all season despite earlier matchups with teams like Cocoa or Gonzaga of Washington D.C.
“It feels great,” Brandon Mays said. “We’ve preached all week that this game means the most out of all of them. And we came and took care of business.”
VIERA 55, MARTIN COUNTY 24
Martin County 7 3 7 7 – 24
Viera 14 14 20 7 – 55
V: William Champion 2 run (Trey Schaneville kick), 8:49
MC: Anthony Golino 5 pass from Austin Kuyrkendall (Sawyer Reese kick), 4:47
V: Brandon Mays 2 run (Trey Schaneville kick), 2:35
MC: Sawyer Reese 36 FG, 11:55
V: Don Jackson 41 pass from Tim DeMorat (Trey Schaneville kick), 3:06
V: Jaren Lewis 8 run (Trey Schaneville kick), 2:33
MC: Austin Kuyrkendall 1 run (Sawyer Reese kick), 10:06
V: Mike Vega 64 run (pass failed), 9:13
V: Will Champion 11 run (Trey Schaneville kick), 5:47
V: Brandon Mays 35 interception return (Trey Schaneville kick), 3:25
V: Keith Freeman 3 run (Trey Schaneville kick), 10:28
MC: Cody Smith 4 pass from Austin Kuyrkendall (Sawyer Reese kick), 2:04
RUSHING: MC—Tristan Simmons 2-33, Burnat Martin 1-10, Roderick Harris 5-7, Marcus Coleman 1-(-5), Austin Kuyrkendall 12-(-7), George Johnson 5-(-22). V—Mike Vega 5-89, Keith Freeman 11-65, Will Champion 4-20, Tim DeMorat 4-16, Sean Atkins 2-10, Jaren Lewis 2-8, Brandon Mays 1-2.
PASSING: MC—Kuyrkendall 26-42-244-2-3, Johnson 1-5-20-0-0. V—DeMorat 11-15-127-1-0, Atkins 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING: MC—Martin 7-109, Brendan Haleran 5-16, Coleman 4-21, Johnson 3-36, Harris 2-20, Cody Smith 2-21, Anthony Golino 2-14, Simmons 1-23. V—Quinton Richard 4-29, Don Jackson 3-56, Atkins 2-19, Vega 2-(-11), Travis Jones 1-14, Bear Bollinger 1-7.
At Viera High School, Viera
Top performers: Martin County: Wide receiver Burnat Martin caught seven passes for 109 yards.
Viera: Linebacker Brandon Mays scored on a 2-yard touchdown run and also returned an in35 yards for a score.
Key play: With Viera leading 21-10 late in the first half, Cortez Reid intercepts a pass and returns it to the Martin County 8-yard line. One play later Jaren Lewis scores to put the Hawks up 28-10. S
Record: Martin County (4-3, 1-1 6-7A); Viera (5-2, 2-0 6-7A).
Next week: Martin County bye; Viera bye
Full game report: http://on.flatoday.com/2dUmp2I
Carl Kotala, For FLORIDA TODAY