Floyd head football coch Rafael Roybal gathers his team during a New Mexico 8-man football district game earlier this season at Floyd. The Broncos upset heavily favored Gateway Christian on the road Saturday.
Cinderella is wearing red, white and blue in the New Mexico 8-man football playoffs, and instead of leaving her glass slipper behind at the ball, she hopes to locate her crystal-plated horseshoe before the clock strikes midnight.
Regardless of what happens from here — it’s shaping up to be a magical month for Floyd football.
The sixth-seeded Broncos upended two-time state champion and third-seeded Gateway Christian Saturday in Roswell 32-28 — a huge event in itself, especially considering that the Warriors cruised to a 62-0 laugher at Floyd earlier this season.
Floyd hits the road again this Saturday (11 a.m.) to second-seeded Animas for the state semifinals.
Needless to say, head coach Rafael Roybal and his bunch of Broncos are excited to be in the final four.
“They’re extremely excited about what they did,” Roybal said. “It’s still new to them. It’s something they’ve never done before as far as achievement and learning to win like that.”
Roybal also said you can’t overestimate what this time means to his young team.
“To them, it’s probably the most exciting thing they’ve ever done,” Roybal said. “Most of them are very young, and it’s important to our program. It’s a step.”
Roybal talked about Floyd’s remarkable steps.
“I was extremely proud of the way our kids played,” Roybal said. “We’ve struggled for three years now. And we’ve been taking little steps and little steps and you couldn’t see them — most people couldn’t see the strides we were making. Making the playoffs, everybody saw that, and when we went and beat a team we weren’t supposed to, there’s another step.”
Floyd faces an even a tougher task Saturday. The Panthers ripped through District 2, finishing an unblemished 9-0 record, before tearing up seventh-seeded Menaul Saturday in the first round of the state tournament 61-8.
So far this season, Animas has outscored it’s opponents 457-94.
“We’re approaching it similar to what we did at Gateway,” Roybal said. “(We’re) simply saying that nobody expects us to win and we’re just going to go in there and play as hard as we can.”
As far as team experience, Floyd and Animas are polar opposites. Floyd doesn’t have a single senior on the roster, and only a handful of juniors, while juniors and seniors account for more than half of the Panthers 34-man roster.
Animas runs a spread offense with two wide-outs and two slot receivers. They also run the option from that formation and according to Roybal, they do it well.
“They’re a good football team,” Roybal said. “They should probably be playing 11-man football.”
Despite hitting no road-blocks so far this season, Animas brings a lot of respect into Saturday’s contest.
“It’s difficult man,” Animas head coach Louie Laborin said. “Floyd is a very athletic team and they’re coming off a real big emotional win.”
“On any given Friday or Saturday, it’s the best team that steps on the field that will be the best team that comes off,” Laborin said.
“I feel we’ve got a chance,” Roybal said. “I think they’ve learned that anything is possible.”
The long-time coach also noted a small change in his players’ attitude directed to him in the week of practice after the big upset.
“I think they figure, ‘He’s not so stupid after all,’” Roybal joked.
Top-seeded Mountainair hosts fourth-seeded Melrose Saturday in the other semifinal with the winners meeting in the state championship game later this month.
“Right now they’re ready to play,” Roybal said. “They’re tired of practicing — we’ve been going real hard for three days and they’re tired of it and they’re pretty much ready to go.”