By Arnie Leshin
It was like passing the torch to visiting St. Michael’s. It was like Robertson protecting a slim 12-0 lead at halftime Friday night and giving the Horsemen some hope.
Two touchdowns that included two missed extra points, and despite being outplayed, St. Michael’s wasn’t down and out, or so it thought, except with Cardinals’ senior running back/wide receiver Antonio Padilla having a dandy of a District 2-3A game, it wasn’t the Horsemen’s night as they tumbled 44-0.
They were as cold as the chill of the night. But not for the 5-foot-8 Padilla. He was red-hot, latching onto three touchdown passes of 76, 81, and 49 yards, and capping it with a 8-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter. He wound up with 254 total yards, far more than the St. Michael’s dismal total of 73.
Padilla wasn’t selfish. He caught only five passes from sophomore quarterback Matthew Gonzales, and took three of them into the end zone. His 16 yards carrying the ball put the final touches on a impressive victory that put the Cards at 8-1 overall, 3-0 in district, and need only a win at home Friday night versus cross-town rival West Las Vegas to bring a top four seed for the state tournament.
“We just couldn’t stop him,” said disappointed Horsemen head coach Joey Fernandez in regard to Padilla. “He just wanted the ball more than our guys did. They put it up there for him and he went and got it.”
Meanwhile, it abruptly halted St. Michael’s four-game win streak, dropped it to 4-4 overall and 2-1 in district with a final regular-season game Saturday afternoon against visiting Raton. Fernandez is hopeful a win would get his team into the state tournament.
Yes, it trailed only 12-0 at intermission, but the Cardinals added 19 in the third and 13 in the fourth, and it would be a very disappointing ride home on I-25 for the Horsemen.
Robertson gave its fans a happy ride home. It put together 441 total yards, with senior Santiago Gonzales rushing for a game-high 112 along the ground, and adding a pair of touchdowns, in addition to Matthew Gonzales contributing 43 rushing yards and putting the ball in the air for 270 yards.
And the Horsemen had no answers, none, zero. They had trouble running the ball, winding up with only 24 yards, and were sacked seven times by the aggressive Cardinals. There was sophomore quarterback Lucas Coriz connecting on only 4-of-16 throws for 49 yards, 40 of them to senior Kennis Romero, who tips the scale at only 140 yards.
His catch moved the ball just inside the Robertson 10, but fell short on a fourth down at the 5. That was the game, for the Cards took over and responded with three running plays that got the ball out to the 19. Next, Padilla hauled in a pass from Matthew Gonzales and sped untouched for a backbreaking 81-yard touchdown.
The home side didn’t stop there as it then scored on all five of its second half possessions When Santiago Gonzales ran the ball in from a yard out as the second quarter rang down, it continued with six-straight touchdown drives once the second half began.
For head coach Leroy Gonzales’ team, the mystery remains the 46-28 blowout at home against once-beaten Socorro. From there, it won five in a row by scoring 191 points giving up 27.
Winning doesn’t keep Gonzales out of trouble. He was ejected late in the third quarter for picking up his second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which means he won’t be on the sidelines for the game versus the Dons.
The Horsemen’s leading rusher was senior Derek Roybal with a measly 13 yards on six tugs. As for Padilla, he could have had more, but his 82-yard touchdown run late in the opening quarter was nullified via a holding penalty.
It didn’t matter for the visitors would never reach the end zone offensively.