By Arnie Leshin
It was quite a weekend, with the spotlight falling to rejuvenated St. Michael’s.
The Horsemen turned into rude hosts by stunning visiting Robertson, 39-7, Saturday afternoon. The team that lost its first three starts, and won its next four before losing 14-13 at West Las Vegas last Friday night, can now win District 2-3A if all goes right Friday night in the regular season finale.
St. Michael’s travels to Raton (5-4) and Robertson (7-2) makes its way to city rival West Las Vegas (6-3). A Horsemen win and a Dons’ loss will create a three-way tie in district, but St. Michael’s would finish on top via the point deferential.
It was quite the turnaround. After the first three games, critics were already saying that it’s a disappointing season for the Horsemen, but head coach Joey Fernandez wasn’t concerned in what it is 16th year in this role at his alma mater.
“I don’t care what anyone says,” he said after preparing for back-to-back starts at city rivals Capital and Santa Fe High. Both were routs. “We had a tough start against three good teams. We lacked size, experience and a strong defense. I think we will be fine.”
The tight loss at WLV was history, and theCardinals did not expect to be dominated in the 20th clash between the schools since 2000. But they were.
The visitors, who lost to the Horsemen at home last season, got an indication of what kind of day it would be. First St. Michael’s senior Luke Kastendieck dashed 64 yards into the end zone on the third play. After Robertson had the ball and did little with it before punting, back came senior quarterback Dominic Morgan.
Morgan, starting after freshman Lucas Coriz quarterbacked versus the Dons, had his best day of the season. On third and five, he found the versatile Kastendieck with a 20-yard pass to his own 31. After running for three yards, on fourth and seven, St. Michael’s faked a punt and Morgan and
Kastendieck teamed on a screen pass and turned it into a 56-yard TD.
Senior Andrew Salazar was good on both PATs and it was quickly 14-0.
Twice more the Cards made three ineffective plays and punted again. On their next possession, the Horsemen did not score, but despite back-to-back penalties against them, Morgan completed three passes, but on second and goal at the Robertson 5, he was sacked for a 6-yard loss and Salazar missed a 32-yard field goal attempt right as the second quarter began.
Again, the Cardinals went nowhere and Morgan engineered a 42-yard drive in eight plays before senior Derrick Roybal ran 3 yards for the touchdown. Again Salazar converted and it was now 21-0 with five minutes to go in the half.
After a pair of incomplete passes, Morgan connected through the air, ran three yards on third and eight, then he followed up a missed throw with three successful passes to Kastendieck and Roybal, who caught the last at the 3 and then ran it in.
The defense continued to smother the Robertson offense that had been scoring 30 points a game. And on their next possession of the first half, one play, a 45-yard throw to Kastendieck, turned into another TD and s 27-0 lead. The PAT was blocked., but St. Michael’s had scored on four of its first six possessions.
In the third quarter, it was Morgan to Kastendieck again. On fourth and eight at its own 47, Morgan found Kastendieck on completions of 26 and 20 yards to put the ball on the Cards’ 6. Senior Sebastian Alcaraz ran for 2 yards and Kastendieck for 4 and his third touchdown. The PAT was unsuccessful, but it was 33-0.
It was all over when Robertson finally scored with 2:16 to go in the third quarter on a 3-yard run by freshman Matthew Gonzales. The PAT made it 33-7 and St. Michael’s responded by going 90 yards in nine plays, with junior Kennis Romero reeling in a 39-yard pass from Morgan, the PAT was good, and it was back up the bus for the Cardinals.
Morgan, who also plays defense, was poised throughout. He avoided the rushing Robertson defense and ran the offense after being the back-up since his sophomore year.
And Kastendieck, who took some snaps late in the game as Morgan took a break, also started for the first time at running back and combined this with his receptions to have a stellar day.
In all, it was a team effort and Fernandez was right. The team will come together, which it did.