Portales faces playoff-tested St. Michael’s

By Mickey Winfield: Freedom Newspapers

Riding a three-game win streak, the Portales Rams are a game away from a Class 3A state championship game. Their mission is simple: beat third-seeded St. Michael’s on the road at 1 p.m. today in the state semifinals.

“We’ve had a great week of practice,” Portales coach Andy Correll said. “I think we’ve got them pretty prepared for what they’re going to see (today) and we expect another great game.”

In preparing for St. Michael’s powerful running game, Correll and his coaching staff utilized a different approach during practice this week.

“One thing we did this week was we took out tackling — we didn’t tackle at all this week,” Correll said. “We just focused on the kids flying around, getting to the football. We want them hungry for contact. They bought in and they just got after it. It was intense, we didn’t have very many break-downs in assignments at all, so that was a pretty good thing to witness.”

Robbie Castillo and David Garcia led a balanced St. Michael’s running attack. Mark Manning threw for 1,241 yards during the regular season for St. Michael’s (9-2).

Correll knows the Rams have to stop the St. Mike’s running game.

“They like to run right at you pretty much,” Correll said. “They’ve got a pretty good fullback who lead blocks, and a tailback with a lot of quickness. They run a pass look offense and they throw the ball pretty decent, so we’re going to have to be sound at all levels of defense.”

On offense, the seventh-seeded Rams (6-5) expect to lean heavily on junior quarterback Chris Mosier running several options, and senior running back Eric Segovia to run the ball effectively.

“St. Mike’s hasn’t seen what we’re fixin’ to throw at them, I can tell you that,” Correll said. “We’ve got four levels of option that we can run, and we’re going to hit them pretty hard with that. Hopefully that pays off for us.”

St. Michael’s junior cornerback Robert C. DeBaca tied a school record last week with four interceptions, one of which set up St. Michael’s for the go-ahead touchdown in the Horsemen’s state quarterfinal win against Hatch.

The Rams upset the second-seeded Bloomfield Tigers last week in double overtime, 20-17.

“We’re tickled to death for the kids, the kids have put all this hard work in,” Correll said. “The kids buying into what we’re teaching, and them executing, they’ve come miles from that first game of the year. Honestly, your goal is to be in this situation, but I’ve never thought we could have gotten this far. They’ve come leaps and bounds from where we started.”

St. Michael’s has plenty of playoff experience.

“Our kids have been in the state semifinals the last four years, so our seniors have had that taste of big games,” St. Michael’s coach Joey Fernandez said. “We’ve lost two of those games, so it hasn’t panned out real good for us. We’re confident in the way we play in big games.”