Hallandale High lost a large class to graduation last year, including four members of its secondary that received college scholarships to play football.
The Chargers didn’t make the postseason following a 5-5 season.
Many expected the program to work through a rebuilding stage. Instead, Hallandale is 2-0 against non-district opponents and also beat Blanche Ely in the preseason.
“We weren’t really sure what we had yet,” senior linebacker Jeremy Derrick said. “As the summer passed, we started getting better. The core defense in the middle got stronger.”
That defense — led by Derrick and fellow senior linebacker Aaron Plante — has forced seven lost fumbles in wins over Plantation and Northeast.
Its biggest challenge to date will come this Friday night when the team hosts South Plantation and faces senior running back and UM recruit Alex Collins. He has rushed for 458 yards on 40 carries with five touchdowns so far this season.
“Just come up and hope you’re able to bring him down because he runs very, very hard,” head coach Dameon Jones said. “He’s a hard target to bring down. We’ve been aggressive and just seeing everything fast. We just try to not think too much and play off reaction.”
Plantation accumulated 192 rushing yards against Hallandale, while Northeast mustered just one. In turn, the secondary has benefited from the dominant play of the linemen and linebackers. Opposing quarterbacks in the two regular-season games combined to go 16-for-41 with just 237 yards and two touchdowns.
According to junior safety Jonathan Jackson, when the quarterback has no time in the pocket, he gets nervous and makes mistakes. Jackson said new faces to the unit meant guys having to get to know each other for better communication.
“At first it was kind of tough, but the past few games we’ve been playing and working together like brothers,” Jackson said. “Communication is key. That’s very important — paying attention. Communicating with your defensive backs, knowing what’s going on or where the receiver’s going or what’s going on in the backfield.”
During the two regular-season games, the Chargers have outscored opponents by 21 total points in lower-scoring affairs.
And it’s not just young guys on defense making an immediate impact. The offense does its part in support of the defense.
Freshman quarterback Tyler Huntley has yet to turn the ball over with four touchdowns and 248 yards passing.
“I think he’s transitioned well,” Jones said. “I think he’s coming into his own and growing every game. My coaches on that side of the ball are doing a wonderful job with his progression.”
As part of that progression, Jones wants better execution on both sides of the ball. Hallandale has been penalized 23 times for 228 yards.
With game experience, Derrick and Jackson believe the team can win week in and week out, ultimately reaching its goal of state. The returning leaders have taken it upon themselves to bring the younger guys under their wings.
“In practice we do one-on-ones and we work with them so they can learn everything we learn and try to keep them on with everyone else,” Derrick said. “We’re trying to teach them how to be responsible and do what they’ve got to do. We try to keep the kids — the young ones — humble. What we’re trying to do is not try to show out and stuff like that. We’re showing them that we can make plays, but you’ve got to do your assignments and your jobs.”