Tyler Huntley, barely able to stand up, hugged teammate Joshua Hammond and started sobbing uncontrollably.
The emotional moment was almost too much for the Utah-bound quarterback as the tears were those of joy.
That’s because Huntley, who played the entire second half limping around on an injured left ankle, had just put the finishing touches on a remarkable comeback.
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His late touchdown pass allowed the Hallandale Chargers to turn in a stunner on Friday night, shocking two-time defending state champion Plantation American Heritage 27-20 in a Class 5A regional semifinal at Heritage Field.
It marked a historic moment for the program as the Chargers (10-2) advanced to a regional final for the first time in program history and will travel to Orlando to take on Bishop Moore in a regional final next week.
The game-winner came with 41 seconds left when Huntley found Juwan Hardy in the left flat, and Hardy turned it into an 18-yard touchdown pass to snap a 20-20 tie. A flag was thrown on the play in what appeared to be a block in the back on the Chargers, but when it was picked up the big Hallandale crowd went into a wild celebration.
It almost was a premature celebration as the Patriots managed to drive to the Hallandale 30 with eight seconds left. That’s when quarterback Jason Brown launched a pass for the end zone that Laress Nelson went up to grab. The ball got tipped in the air, and Kyshaun Bryan was behind the play and dove for the ball, just barely trapping it and ending the game.
“Hey man, these kids, they just didn’t want to go home and they fought and fought and fought out there tonight,” Hallandale coach Dameon Jones said. “We’re out there playing with an injured quarterback and gutting it out. I’m just so proud of my coaches and proud of my kids, they’ve been together since freshmen year, and this is a great moment for them.”
Jones watched his team basically get dominated the entire first half, trailing 14-7 at halftime as Huntley completed just 3 of 10 passes for 8 yards.
And when the Patriots (9-2) came out and scored on a 38-yard touchdown run by Bryan on the third play of the second half, the Chargers trailed 20-7 and appeared done.
But Huntley would have none of it, as he started to move around and find some open receivers and answered Bryan’s score with a 13-play, 80-yard drive, the big play being a 28-yard completion to Hammond on third-and-4 from his own 26 before finding Hammond for a 4-yard score on third-and-goal to cut the deficit to seven.
Turnovers, the tune of four lost fumbles, plagued Heritage all night long, and the Patriots gave up a big one on the next drive when a high snap over Brown’s head resulted in Kory Johnson’s recovery at the Pats’ 25.
Three plays later, following a 27-yard Huntley-to-Hammond strike to the 3, running back Zach Moss was in the end zone and the game was tied at 20.
The winning score was set up when the Patriots fumbled the ball for the last time when Brown and Bryan missed connections on a handoff, and Korell Evans recovered a loose ball at the Heritage 25 with 3:02 left. Huntley then hit Hardy for 14 yards on a third-and-10 from the 45 before a Moss 15-yard run got the ball down to the 18.
“We just came out and played our game. It was just a matter of finishing and doing whatever it took,” said Huntley, who had to be carried off the field to the locker room. “Nobody probably gave us a chance when we were down in the second half, but it was just a matter of findng a way. We just had to trust each other. Just a matter of trust, and we’re excited about the opportunity in front of us.”
Asked about his bum left ankle that he injured last week in a first-round win over Suncoast, Huntley didn’t hesitate.
“The ankle? All I can tell you is that it’ll be good next Friday, that’s for sure,” he said.
HAL - Hayes 20 fumble return (Kelly kick)
AHP - Herbert 6 run (Milstein kick)
AHP - Bryan 1 run (Milstein kick)
AHP - Bryan 38 run (kick blocked)
HAL - Hammond 4 pass from Huntley (kick failed)
HAL - Moss 3 run (Kelly kick)
HAL - Hardy 18 pass from Huntley (Kelly kick)
Rushing (att-yds) -- HAL: Huntley 2-(-1), Cotto 1-5, Hodges 1-10, Moss 18-64. AHP: Brown 14-5, Bryan 17-105, Herbert 18-114.
Passing (comp-att-int, yds)-- HAL: Cotto 0-1-0, 0, Huntley 16-30-0, 191. AHP: Brown 8-13-0, 101.
Receiving (rec-yds-TD) -- HAL: Huntley 1-7, Simpkins 1-13, Cotto 2-15, Hardy 3-35, Hammond 4-60, Moss 5-61. AHP: Butler 1-14, Nelson 3-16, Eubanks 1-22, Johnson 3-49.