The Hallandale Chargers score at such a fast and furious pace that sometimes they don’t even stop to catch their breath.
Senior safety John Battle can attest.
Two weeks ago, he picked off a pass and then zig-zagged his way across field en route to a 90-yard touchdown return to end the first half against Coconut Creek. That wasn’t the impressive part.
Battle didn’t celebrate the score for very long. He ran right to the line of scrimmage and snapped the ensuing extra point. Then, as he walked to the halftime locker room, he caught his breath.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
“Guys were trying to jump up, give me a high-five and I was like ‘No, I’m tired! I’m tired! And I’ve got to go long snap!,’” Battle said. “We like playing fast and explosive.”
Nobody in Miami-Dade or Broward counties — not even national No. 1 Booker T. Washington — has lit up the scoreboard as often as Hallandale. The Chargers (6-0, 3-0 in District 15-6A) are averaging 54.7 points a game, among the highest averages in the state.
Battle, only one of four starting seniors on the team, is the most high-profile weapon. A 6-2, 188-pound LSU commitment, Battle is among the team’s leading tacklers with 47 stops, three interceptions and six touchdowns — some of those coming at receiver. He’s also the team’s vocal leader.
“He was kind of on the quiet side before, but this year he has really stepped up and been a true leader,” coach Dameon Jones said. “When he speaks the kids listen and they follow. He’s the one that speaks before every game before we step on the field. He has really stepped up and provided what we needed among all the young guys.”
A former standout in the Richmond Heights area in Miami-Dade, Battle said he grew up idolizing Sean Taylor and dreaming of being a Miami Hurricane before he moved to Broward County with his father during middle school. UM, however, didn’t offer him a scholarship until well after LSU had made a strong case to get him.
Battle, who has a 3.5 GPA, said he would like to study broadcast journalism in college and loves video editing. He started doing it in the ninth grade as a freshman when he would edit his own highlight tapes. Now for fun, he creates nicknames for his teammates like ESPN anchor Chris Berman.
“We got a talented young team,” Battle said. “I call our running backs Earth, Wind and Fire. [Senior running back] Treyvon Rolle has two nicknames. I like to call him Showtime, too.”
The Chargers, who haven’t won a playoff game since 2008 and haven’t reached the playoffs since 2010, still have two huge games left on the schedule in the regular season before they can lock up the district title: Oct. 18 versus Dillard (3-2, 3-0) and Nov. 1 at Boynton Beach (6-0, 3-0).
If they win both of those games and their playoff opener, a second-round date with No. 1-ranked Miami Central would likely loom. Jones isn’t worrying about that, yet, though.
With a young team, Hallandale could be a force to be reckoned with not only this season, but next.
Leading rusher Taj McGowan (6-1, 190) is a junior. Leading tackler and starting middle linebacker Sh’mar Kilby-Lane (6-1, 180) is a junior. Leading receiver Neru Nshaka (5-11, 170) is a sophomore. Quarterback Tyler Huntley (1,222 yards, 21 touchdowns, two interceptions) is only a sophomore.
Jones expects many of his young players to get even better next year after they’ve had a full varsity season under their belts like Huntley, who started as a freshman. Of his 21 touchdown passes this year, a dozen have gone for 30 yards or more.
“I’m just hoping this season’s experience and these games flow down for next year,” Jones said. “I think that’s why our QB is having the year he’s having this year. He saw the games last year and it was a little fast for him. Now, it all slowed down. It’s easier.”
Of course, everything seems easy for Hallandale right now.