By Dan Pearson
For Positively Osceola
In the end, it was just too much Simms.
Quarterback CJ Simms threw for 368 yards and two touchdowns and scored a fourth on the ground, as the Viera Hawks rallied from 14 points down in the second half to defeat host Harmony, 39-31 in a district game for both teams on Friday night.
It was a wild first half, which saw Harmony grab a 24-17 lead at intermission.
Simms would direct three scoring drives in the half, but Longhorns’ running back Tyler Emans would put on a show, scoring two touchdowns and setting up a third.
“Head Coach Don Simon shared after the game, “That was two pretty good football teams beating each other’s heads in. We played about 47 of the 48 minutes of the game and it cost us. We made some mistakes down the stretch. and you can’t make those mistakes. We’re on the road next week against Liberty – on the road for the first time in a long time where we’ll play a pretty stout Liberty team. I know they’re athletic.”
Emans would set up Harmony’s first score with a 60-yard kickoff return, which led to a 2-yard Cooper Richards touchdown run. On back-to-back possessions, Emans would break touchdown runs of 65 and 74 yards as the Longhorns would build a 21-17 lead.
A defensive stop, Harmony’s first of the half, would then force a punt to midfield. Harmony would pick up three first downs to the Viera 17, but two negative plays pushed them back to the 30. Longhorns’ coach Don Simon would elect to run the clock down to one second and call time out. Kicker Kevin Lavigne would then boot a 47-yard field goal on the final play of the half as the Longhorns took a 24-17 lead into the locker room.
Harmony would extend the lead to two scores in the third quarter. Forcing a punt from deep in Viera territory, a bad snap was followed by a blocked kick and the Longhorns were in business on the Viera 2-yard line. Emans would bowl over on the next play for his third touchdown of the game and Harmony led 31-17 midway through the fourth quarter.
But more big plays from Simms would prove to be the undoing of Harmony.
On the Hawks first play of the next possession, Donovan Giles would get past the Harmony secondary and catch an 85-yard bomb from Simms as Viera cut the gap to 31-24.
Harmony would then fumble on its next possession and six plays later Simms would call his own number on a fourth and goal from the two to make it a one-point game. Electing to kick, the snap would avoid the Hawks holder, but kicker Jared Perdomo would pick up the loose ball and out-race the Harmony defenders to the corner for a two-point conversion and a 32-31 lead.
The Longhorns would then drive the ball to midfield but faced with a fourth and three with five minutes remaining, elected to punt the ball. “It was a tough decision,” Simon said. “But our feeling was if we could pin them deep and get a stop, we would have a chance to win the game.”
A good punt, followed by an illegal block in the back by Viera and a false start penalty on their first play, backed the Hawks all the way up to their own 5-yard line. But on a second and 12 play, Simms hit Giles on a slant and he broke a tackle and raced 58 yards. Three plays later, Judah Knight scored from five yards out for the game-clinching touchdown with less than three minutes left.
Emans finished the game with 231 yards rushing but only 52 after halftime. “Viera started putting eight or nine players in the box and just took away the inside runs after halftime,” Simon said. “We tried running outside but their linebackers did a great job of flowing out and shutting down those runs. The bottom line is this was a good football game between two good teams that came down to one factor – they made a few more big plays than we did.”
In all, the Hawks (4-1, 2-0 district) had 17 plays of 10 or more yards and ran up 460 yards of total offense. “We knew going in they were a tremendously skilled and efficient offense,” Simon said. “We also knew they were going to make some big plays, but we didn’t do a great job of getting them on the ground after they made catches and you can’t turn 10 yard gains into 30 or 40 yard plays.”
Still, the Longhorns (3-2, 0-1) have a lot to play for heading into next week’s non-district game with Liberty. “The loss stings, but Viera has a high RPI and frankly our ranking may go up even with the loss,” Simon said. “If we run the table and Viera keeps playing well, the playoffs are certainly still in reach for us.”