By Arnie Leshin
What’s next? In the pandemic shortened season, St. Michael’s had to postpone its opening football game at Raton because it had a player who had tested positive.
This was not the first time that the program dealt with a situation related to COVID-19. In the spring, it had to shut down for 10 days when a Horsemen player tested positive for coronavirus, and the team did not play its initial two games during the shortened season
From there, the Horsemen played their three games and dominated each time. Then they turned to this regularly scheduled season with a talented team, depth, a balanced running attack, quarterback Lucas Ortiz, and a defense with six and experience.
Sounded good, but in the opening game at Taos, down went Coriz in the first quarter, stumbling to the sidelines, and as he wanted to return, he never did, it was a bad season-ending knee injury, and for the next few games, head coach Joe Fernandez tried at least four players for that position, and after three games he inserted junior Zachery Martinez as the new starter.
Except for the stunning 19-7 loss to Santa Fe High at Christian Brothers Athletic Complex, all was going well as Fernandez’ team won its next seven games that included an impressive win over 4th-ranked Socorro, a 60-8 romp at crosstown rival Capital, a win at El Paso Cathedral, and last week’s struggle versus visiting West Las Vegas that brought a tough one-point victory.
And now, to bring us up at to date, the program got more bad news as Fernandez leaned that 10 of his players, all unvaccinated, have been lost to quarantine, and will miss Friday night‘s key District 2-3A tilt at Robertson, also 7-1, and with the lone loss to unbeaten Raton.
According to Fernandez, now in his 20th season of coaching football at his alma mater, the players were all unvaccinated and reported that they were exposed to a student who tested positive for COVID-19, and where all of them were at Saturday’s homecoming dance in the Tipton Center.
Now according to the athletic guidance provided by the New Mexico Activities Association, all unvaccinated students must quarantine for 10 days from the date of exposure or contacting the virus. None of the players have tested positive so far except that all of the 10 have to remain in quarantine until around Wednesday, three days before the home game against Raton.
“This will significantly impact preparation for that match-up with Raton,” said Fernandez, in regard to the regular-season finale. “What a time for it to happen.”
But it’s no time to panic over the visit from Raton when the ride to Robertson could be a disappointing round trip if the Horsemen are undermanned. Fernandez said his team can match the Cardinals’ physicality, but that he will have to curtail certain parts of St. Michael’s play calling on both sides of the ball.
The good news, added Fernandez, is that the coaching staff has had the entire week with the available players to prepare for Robertson, which is always a tough place to play.
“But we are going to have to go out there and play physical football,” he said, “Nothing exotic. We’ve had different game plans each week, so this is no different.”
The overall problem is a lack of numbers through the St. Michael’s lineup. But if the Horsemen can tackle this problem and even drive back victoriously, that would be quite a story, and you can bet there will be Raton coaches at that contest Friday night.
No names of the 10 players were revealed, but bodies are bodies and that’s always a problem regardless.