It’s been a while, suffice it to say, since Portales has been in serious competitive mode during a football game. The Rams didn’t play last weekend and, the week before, were out of it early in a 46-7 loss to Goddard.
You’d have to go back to a Sept. 18 game against Raton, a 40-33 defeat, to find Portales (1-4) in situations that might decide whether a win or a loss will be the outcome.
Coach Andy Correll, whose team plays St. Michael’s at 2 p.m. on Saturday in Santa Fe, said his team is chomping at the bit.
“Yeah, I think they’re ready to play,” Correll said. “We’ve had nearly two weeks of hitting on each other and we’ve hardly let up a day.”
The game features the last two Class 3A state champs in New Mexico. Portales won last year, while St. Mike’s beat Robertson in the 2007 championship contest.
St. Michael’s (4-1) won its first four games before losing 28-14 against Class 4A St. Pius last weekend. The Horsemen actually led the Sartans 14-7 near the end of the third quarter before St. Pius scored a pair of quick touchdowns to take control.
“We haven’t really been playing good football,” St. Mike’s coach Joey Fernandez said. “I know, right now, we’re 4-1, but we really haven’t been playing very well,
“We’re anxious to get out there and work on the stuff that we’ve been making a lot of mistakes on.”
Fernandez said that his team’s primary goal, while on defense, will be to keep Portales senior running back Jesus Davalos from breaking loose. Davalos was sidelined much of the week, due to a case of turf toe, but is expected to play on Saturday.
On offense, St. Michael’s generally offers a balanced attack and, this year, gets plenty of yardage from junior back Russell Dirsch — whom Fernandez calls “a workhorse.”
“They’re a great football team,” Correll said. “I went and watched them Saturday against St. Pius. They’ve got good size and a couple of good running backs.
“We’ve got to do a great job of tackling. That Dirsch kid, their running back, he’s a load. If you don’t wrap him up, he’ll spin off you and he has the speed to go the distance.”
Last year, en route to the Class 3A title, Portales blanked St. Michael’s 35-0. Correll is hoping his offensive unit can approach that kind of number this time around.
“Defensively, they like contact,” he said of the Horsemen. “They haven’t really seen an offense like we have — they will when they face Raton — but they haven’t seen anyone (yet) that runs it as well as we do.
“I really think there are some things we can expose, but I tell you what, we can’t block ‘em high. They’re going to be quite a bit bigger than us, so we’ve got to stay lower all across the board.”