Momentum. Getting hot. On a roll. There are believers and non-believers in whether such intangible concepts play a role in sporting success.
The reality of it may be tough to prove, but for now, count a number of the Viera football players and coaches among the believers that something or some things boosted the team’s late-season run.
The Hawks will play Friday in a Class 7A state semifinal at Lake City Columbia. They are on a five-game winning streak and deeper into the playoffs than most Florida high school football followers would have expected of a team that finished 6-4 in the regular season.
On the other hand, the quality of opposition that resulted in those four losses may have facilitated Viera’s roll, and that is exactly as head coach Kevin Mays planned it when he arranged games against Allen, Texas; Merritt Island; Kathleen; Cocoa and Palm Bay. Of those teams, the Hawks defeated only Merritt Island.
“I think our schedule definitely prepared us for this,” he said. “Offensively and defensively, we’re kind of clicking right now.”
The offense was expected, but the defense’s ability to hold six-time state champion Lakeland to two touchdowns in last week’s regional final win likely surprised more than it didn’t.
Junior defender Justin Harrison credited both the toughened schedule and a late-season burst of momentum for the drive from 6-4 to 9-4. Having played traditional powers proved to the players themselves they could handle any opponent or situation, including losing an early lead last week.
“It’s shown us we can be one of the best defenses in the state,” he said. “When (Lakeland) tied the game up at 14, we probably were a little worried, but we just stuck together.”
Both Mays and some of his players point to the bye week of Oct. 23 as also critical to the team’s success. In their previous four games, the Hawks had suffered losses to Kathleen, Cocoa and Palm Bay — all playoff teams — by an average of 5.3 points.
“After going through the close, hard losses we had, we needed a break,” Mays said. “It got guys’ minds off football.”
The team came back rejuvenated, as the results have proven. Viera’s five consecutive wins, including three in a row in the postseason, came by an average of 31.8 points. Last week’s 24-14 defeat of Lakeland has to be in the conversation for biggest in school history.
“I think that schedule really helped us against Lakeland,” Mays said. “This place hasn’t had that kind of win against a tradition-rich team.”
Particularly not at such a critical time of the year.
Allen, Texas, now 13-0 and ranked fifth in the USA Today Super 25, will play its own regional final on Saturday. The Eagles have won the last three titles in 6A, which is Texas’ largest classification. Though the season of every other Viera opponent has ended, the Mustangs, Tigers, Pirates and Kathleen all had to be eliminated by ranked teams.
Now, all share credit for toughening the Hawks, as does that break after Week 9.
“We’ve never played teams like that back-to-back-to-back,” Hawks senior quarterback Hayden Kingston said. “That bye week just came at the right time, and we’ve been on an uphill climb ever since.”
Contact McCallum at 321-242-3698 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Brian_McCallum and at facebook.com/FLtoday.brianmccallum.
Class 7A state semifinal football
Friday, 7:30 p.m., Lake City
Viera (9-4) at Columbia (12-1)