It was homecoming weekend and dinner plans were pending all over town so, naturally, head coach Joey Fernandez knew that whatever observation he had to share with his football team after Saturday afternoon’s game at the Christian Brothers Athletic Complex needed to be quick and to the point.
So he basically wasted no time in saying the game he’d just watched between his St. Michael’s Horsemen and visiting El Paso Cathedral was about as ugly of a high school football game as a person could watch.
Yes, the Horsemen won, 27-7.
Sure, the Horsemen have won two straight and head into next week’s District 2-3A opener at Santa Fe Indian School with a measure of momentum.
Those things, alone, made for a pleasant postgame chat — as postgame chats are wont to be after 20-point victories.
Still, the Horsemen (2-3) couldn’t escape the Fernandez truth: The injury riddled offense continued to struggle establishing the run, getting 77 of their 113 yards on the ground on improvised runs from the pocket by quarterback Lucas Coriz.
Blame the offensive line if you want, but don’t blame the heart. Fernandez pointed to players like Thomas Wood, a senior best known for his attributes on the basketball court the last few years. He came out for football this season and had a great game on the defensive line last week against Santa Fe High, but sensing an opportunity, Fernandez approached him about filling in on the O-line Saturday.
“I asked him about jumping in there but, really, I didn’t need to ask because Thomas is one of those kids who will do anything for us,” Fernandez said. “A lot of these kids have been pushed in there like that this year, and I love that about them. We’ve had so many injuries, and kids like that are saving us.”
The Horsemen generated a pedestrian
258 yards of offense against Cathedral, scoring three unanswered touchdowns in the final 14 minutes to finally break free. Until then, the Fighting Irish (1-5) had more than held their own, weaving a near 50-50 split of running and passing plays into a game plan that kept things close.
St. Michael’s broke the scoreless tie by converting the first of two touchdown passes on fourth down; this one a 36-yard strike to Rico Gurule with 4:32 left in the second quarter. The second proved to be the back-breaker.
Up 14-7 and facing third-and-27 from their own 40, the Horsemen called a reverse flea flicker. Coriz was left standing alone in the pocket and had receiver Kennis Romero running 5 yards behind everyone in the secondary. Coriz was actually supposed to throw the ball to another receiver, but let one fly toward Romero inside the Cathedral 5. It’s safe to say everyone except Romero saw the ball clearly. The reason he didn’t was he was staring straight into the sun trying to find the pass. The ball slipped right through his hands.
“I didn’t have a problem with Kennis not making the catch because it was right in the sun,” Fernandez said. “What I wanted was for Lucas to throw the ball to the guy we called for. But he’s 15 and sometimes he gets in a hurry. He’s learning, and throws like that, he’ll know the situation better the more he grows.”
The very next play had Coriz roll out of the pocket to his left. Another receiver, Joaquin Armijo, was running in almost the exact same spot at Romero. This time Coriz’s angle to the sun was slightly different, allowing Armijo to make the grab and reach the end zone.
The Horsemen would add an insurance score in the waning moments when sophomore Daymon Lujan scored the first varsity touchdown of his career in the final minute. All three of his carries came on the final drive and his 26 total yards were the second-most on the team behind Coriz’s total.
Before cutting his guys loose so they could get to Saturday night’s dance, Fernandez cautioned his players not to overlook SFIS.
“We’re not in a place where we can be, where we should be, looking past one week to get to another,” he told his team. “We’re in a place where we have to take this one game at a time and take everyone we play seriously.”
Coriz was 10-for-24 with no interceptions and two touchdowns. He passed for 145 yards and also had a rushing touchdown. … Running back Derek Roybal temporarily left the game after getting injured on the fourth play of the game. He finished with just five carries while fellow RB Ray Lynch had seven carries for 13 yards. … Cathedral had 265 yards total offense, getting 164 yards passing from Josue Rios and 63 rushing from Rafael Ramirez.