By Arnie Leshin
No celebration for West Las Vegas this time.
Instead, it was St. Michael’s time to celebrate its running game and, unlike last year’s final-second 14-13 setback to the Dons at West Las Vegas, it was the Horsemen at the Christian Brothers Athletic Complex turning in a 27-19 District 2-3A victory Saturday afternoon.
After starting at 0-3, Joey Fernandez’ team has now won four in a row as it prepares for Friday night’s test at district leader Robertson. It will take a 2-0 district record along after routing Santa Fe Indian School. West Las Vegas dropped to 5-3 overall and 1-1 in district and next plays the Braves.
Now that junior running back Lucas Montoya is off the injury list, the Horsemen have a three-way option with him and seniors Derek Roybal and Ray Lynch, and even sophomore quarterback Lucas Coriz carrying the ball. It also takes the burden off of Coriz, and instead of being rushed and sometimes sacked as he attempts passes, he can hand off or apply the option and use his legs.
Montoya fumbled three times in the second half, and three came on successive plays as the teams exchanged turnovers. But he did lead the ground game with 89 yards on 15 carries. As for Coriz, he ran for 65 yards, scored a pair of touchdowns, and this offset his 5-for-13 passing for 78 yards and included a touchdown and an interception.
And the home side took advantage of WLV turnovers, one being a fumble from Isaiah Deanne’s that was recovered by Lynch and returned to the Dons’ 24. The Horsemen stayed on the ground for five-straight plays and Daymon Lujan capped it with a 7-yard touchdown run.
That brought St. Michael’s a 14-6 lead with four minutes remaining in the third quarter. This was followed by Coriz dashing 57 yards down the sidelines and into the end zone to up the lead to 20-6 with six minutes left in the quarter.
Coriz also began the scoring when he scampered 19 yards for a TD to bring a 7-0 lead at the 2:43 mark of the opening quarter. The Horsemen went on to convert 3-of-4 point-after kicks.
As for the Dons and their senior quarterback John Balizan, they committed five turnovers and were flagged 11 times for 97 yards. That hurt Balizan’s game even though he connected on 19-of-27 passes for 136 yards and three touchdowns, as well as rushing for 88 yards.
But each time WLV threatened, the Horsemen had the answers by running, running, running, using up time, and keeping the ball from the talented Balizan, who has made a habit of making big plays. But with St. Michael’s staying in front, he had to resort to long inaccurate throws as the Horsemen applied pressure.
And it was 220 yards for the home team along the ground that also played its part, much to the satisfaction of Fernandez and the St. Michael’s fans.