The only way to stop it is a postgame trophy presentation Saturday afternoon.
Or, as Saturday’s opponent might suggest, a slow walk to the locker room after another tough loss in the season’s finale.
Unbeaten for the second straight year heading into the Class AAA State Championship, the Horsemen (12-0) hope to finish what they couldn’t a year ago by capping the most successful season in school history with a title.
St. Michael’s faces Silver (10-2) at Ivan Head Stadium. More than 3,000 fans are expected for the 1:30 p.m. kickoff as the Horsemen try to ease the pain of last season’s 14-10 loss to Lovington.
“Well, the good thing is we’ve done this before so we all kind of know what to expect,” said Joey Fernandez, St. Michael’s head coach. “Maybe that’s and advantage, maybe it’s not. The one way it can help us is we know what kind of mindset we need to have leading into the game, to not get too high before we get out there.”
This is the fifth championship appearance in 10 years for the Horsemen, all of them under Fernandez. The difference with this group, he said, is the motivation it uses.
“There’s a chip on this team’s shoulder,” he said. “They have a sense of purpose after coming so close. A lot of those kids are back and they played with more focus than other teams just because they got so close and lost.”
The Horsemen have mercy ruled five opponents and enjoyed an average margin of victory of nearly five touchdowns. They are holding clubs to just 6.4 points per game.
The season’s only close call came Oct. 26 when Silver opened a 14-0 lead in the first half before the Horsemen rallied for a tough 28-21 win.
It was a game in which St. Michael’s withstood a direct shot from its toughest challenger. Emerging a little bruised and that much more motivated, the Horsemen have long had their sights set on this day and a return engagement with the Colts.
“A lot of the talk, all that stuff that got said and what some guys were accused of — I tried not to get involved in that,” said Cory Serna, St. Michael’s quarterback. “It was all blown out of proportion, honestly. [Silver’s] a really good team and we respect them, but we’re not going to say anything about that first game.”
Serna is 24-1 as a starter. He has passed for 1,955 yards and 24 touchdowns this season. His favorite targets are running backs Solomon Martinez (32 catches for 608 yards) and Daniel Ortega (24-340), but he also gets plenty of work for tight end Santo Coppola (23-430) and deep threat receiver Josh Carrasco (11-175).
The quartet has combined for 20 touchdown catches.
Martinez and Ortega are the top options in the rushing department. Martinez is four yards shy of 600, with 22 TDs while Ortega has 556 yards. Isaiah Dominguez has rushed for 419 but he has been slowed this week with an injured ankle.
Defensively, the Horsemen are sure to key in on Silver running back Nevada Bencomo. A physical runner who has the speed to burst outside and the power to run over people in traffic, he led the Colts with 1,236 yards and 18 touchdowns. As he goes, so goes the offense.
Quarterback Derek Salas does have the vertical threat to cause the Horsemen concern. In their previous game he had a 59-yard touchdown pass to Ismael Jaquez, but Jaquez dropped at least two other balls that could have caused serious damage.
Fernandez recognizes that, which is why he has instructed cornerbacks Joseph Jaffa-Martinez and Fotios Patsalis to focus on defending the pass.
“There were times in the last game where both those kids would play the run and pull themselves away from the receivers,” Fernandez said. “I want them both to stay with their guys until they know it’s a run.”
If it all works as planned, the proverbial freight train should finally grind to a halt right around the time the sun sets and the blue trophy is being handed out.
And, unlike last year, it will head east on Siringo Road instead of down the highway and back to southern New Mexico.