— The Citrus Bowl parking lot was awash in green two hours before kickoff Friday as Viera High’s football team prepared to play in its first state championship game, the 7A final against St. Thomas Aquinas.
Viera athletic director Chris Gallagher confirmed the school sold its allotment of 1,000 tickets in about two days, though other Hawks fans were encouraged to buy tickets online or at the stadium. Gallagher said 10 buses were set aside to bring students to the game.
As kickoff approached, green-clad fans filled three and most of a fourth section on the home, or west, side of the stadium. One grassy section of the Citrus Bowl parking lot was filled with Viera tailgaters. The night before, about a thousand fans had attended a pep rally at the Viera High gymnasium on campus.
St. Thomas Aquinas, with eight state championship trophies already, was also well-represented despite coming from Ft. Lauderdale. Raiders fans appeared to almost all wear white and occupied much of one east side section and parts of six others.
Raiders players have prominent destinations
Seven St. Thomas Aquinas players have committed to Division I college football programs, including injured defender Nick Bosa, who has announced he will sign with Ohio State on national signing day.
Receivers Michael Irvin and Sam Bruce committed to the Miami Hurricanes, and running back James Charles was the third Raiders player planning to remain in-state, having chosen Florida Atlantic.
Receiver Frank Coppet was bound for Vanderbilt, while receiver Dominic Thieman and kicking specialist James McCourt committed to Illinois.
Viera’s most prominent recruit, receiver Tre Nixon, has visited more than 20 major schools and has listed some favorites including Penn State and Florida. He was named the Florida Dairy Farmers Class 7A Player of the Year this week.
Big names dot
St. Thomas Aquinas has some familiar names on the roster.
Wide receivers Michael Irvin and Samuel Bruce as well as defensive lineman Kivon Bennett and defensive back Asante Samuel all started for the Raiders in the Class 7A state final against Viera High.
Bruce, the son of former NFL receiver Isaac Bruce, has 41 catches for 366 yards while Irvin had 26 catches for 258 yards.
Samuel has four interceptions this season and has returned five punts for 82 yards. Bennett is the son of former Pro Bowl linebacker Cornelius Bennett.
Benjamin Sapp III, son of former NFL player Benny Sapp and nephew of Warren Sapp, was among the injured players that did not play.
Brevard County makes
Brevard County football teams made their 18th appearance in a Florida High School Athletic Association state final on Friday night.
Viera High became the seventh different team to make the finals and in the past 17 appearances, the “home” team has won 13 times.
Cocoa and Merritt Island are tied for the most titles with three apiece.