Years ago when Kevin Mays was the offensive coordinator for his close friend and then-head coach Derek Smith at Bayside High, Mays felt some lighthearted pressure when Smith publicly predicted their Bears offense would average 40 points.
Now beginning his sixth season as head coach at Viera, Mays has joked in recent years that he someday would return the favor by making a bold prediction, thus putting the pressure on his friend Smith, now the Hawks defensive coordinator.
Someday came Wednesday afternoon.
“I expect the defense to lead us until the offense can catch up. Coach Smith says this could be the best defense he’s been around,” Mays said after the midweek practice. “We definitely have better depth on defense than we do on offense.”
For most opponents, it was the Viera offense striking fear last season. It certainly was good enough to get the Hawks to the Class 7A state final, where they ran into one of the few teams that had little reason to fear anything: St. Thomas Aquinas.
From that Viera squad, quarterback Hayden Kingston and SEC-bound receiver Tre Nixon graduated. Nixon and four other graduating receivers had accounted for 70 percent of the 2015 receptions.
Following Friday’s 57-0 win at Eau Gallie, the team’s defense has done its job thus far. Maybe, like Mays turning the tables on Smith, the Viera defense will do the same to the offense.
The Hawks returned five of their best defensive weapons. They are aggressive end Miguel Rodriguez, technique-whiz Justin Harrison at tackle, saavy linebacker Brandon Mays, top back Will Champion and also Marco Foreman, who produced 19 sacks a year ago from his spot on the end of the line.
“We have all the pieces to the puzzle,” Foreman said. “We just have to make it work, and we could be a great team this year.”
And Kevin Mays won’t count out the offense, not by a long shot. Brennen Deplancke averaged 5.7 yards per carry and is back at running back, while Quinton Richard (37 catches) and Don Jackson (34) are returning receivers.
“Granted, those were big-time guys that we lost,” Mays said, “but I expect us to come in and be able to move the ball.”
He expects something else, too, and he has preached it to his players,
“I think they realize now that we’re not going to sneak up on anybody at this point.”
It’s something they seem to embrace.
“We have a little bit of a target, so we have to come out here and work hard every day,” Harrison said. “We used to be the joke of the county, and now we’re one of the best teams.”
Contact McCallum at 321-242-3698 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow facebook.com/FLtoday.brianmccallum and @Brian_McCallum on Twitter.
2016 Hawks Schedule
Aug. 26 Viera at Rockledge, 7
Sept. 3 Washington D.C. Gonzaga at Viera, 7
Sept. 9 Viera at Merritt Island, 7
Sept. 16 Kathleen at Viera, 7
Sept. 23 Cocoa at Viera, 7
Sept. 30 Melbourne at Viera, 7
Oct. 7 Viera at Palm Bay, 7
Oct. 14 Martin County at Viera, 7
Oct. 28 Viera at South Fork, 7
Nov. 4 Viera at Winter Springs, 7