Broward High Schools

Celso Lopez lifts Hallandale Chargers to district crown

Hallandale running back Taj McGowan tries to jump over the line while being held by Boynton Beach defensive end Quinton Wilcher during the first half, Friday, Oct. 31, 2014.
Hallandale running back Taj McGowan tries to jump over the line while being held by Boynton Beach defensive end Quinton Wilcher during the first half, Friday, Oct. 31, 2014. Sun Sentinel

Celso Lopez said it felt like heaven.

Lopez, Hallandale’s placekicker, was surrounded by his teammates, who jumped around him on the field and chanted his name.

After three hours of football against Boynton Beach, five lead changes and nearly 1,000 yards combined of offense, it was the 5-9, 130-pound senior who became the focal point of a historic win for the Chargers on Friday night.

Lopez’s 31-yard field goal capped a wild 38-36 home victory for Hallandale over Boynton Beach that secured the Chargers the District 15-6A championship and the school’s first undefeated regular season.

Hallandale will host the runner-up of District 16-6A (either Carol City, Norland or Northwestern) in the first round of the playoffs in two weeks.

“I literally cleared my mind and said I have to make this for the team,” said Lopez, a soccer player at the school who is in his first season as the team’s kicker. “I had never done something like this before. I just thank God. This feels like heaven.”

Hallandale (9-0), ranked sixth in the Miami Herald’s South Florida Top 20 poll, won its second district championship and first since 2010 — also the previous time it advanced to the playoffs.

“We just feel so blessed right now seeing these kids working their tails off for this,” Hallandale coach Dameon Jones said. “This was a great game against a great team and maybe one of the top players in the state of Florida.”

The Chargers surrendered 548 total yards to Boynton Beach (9-1) and its high-powered offense led by senior quarterback Lamar Jackson, who threw for 280 yards and three touchdowns. Jackson also ran for 142 yards on 18 attempts and scored two rushing touchdowns.

Jackson twice led Boynton Beach back from two-touchdown deficits in the game.

Trailing 35-22, Jackson hit Zander Bernard for a 43-yard touchdown to cut Hallandale’s lead to six points.

After recovering an onside kick, Jackson capped another drive with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Donte Sylencieux to put Boynton Beach ahead 36-35 with 30 seconds remaining.

Boynton Beach took the one-point lead while benefitting from a botched snap on an extra-point attempt by Hallandale that followed a 13-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tyler Huntley to Joshua Hammond earlier in the fourth quarter.

But Huntley led the Chargers down the field quickly, completing two passes for 37 yards to the Tigers’ 15-yard line to set up the winning kick.

Huntley completed 16 of 28 passes for 300 yards and threw three touchdown passes. Hammond caught two of them and finished with four catches for 85 yards. Richie Cooper finished with six catches for 135 yards and a touchdown.

Hallandale amassed 443 total yards of offense.

“We love making history, and I think we made a statement tonight to everyone doubting us,” Huntley said.

Hallandale’s running game also paced its offense and helped it take a 21-7 lead into halftime, and later rally from a 22-21 deficit early in the fourth quarter.

Senior running back Taj McGowan ran for 114 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries to lead the balanced attack.

“This team grew up early in the preseason against Miramar,” Jones said. “To win our second district championship is unbelievable. I’m just thankful right now.”

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