Ernesto Lacayo shared with 3,142 fans at Hartman Arena what he had experienced hours earlier, and they got to feel what he felt.
The Wild kicker’s pregame routine involves him imagining various scenarios, and one concocted by Lacayo on Saturday had the outcome of Wichita’s playoff game riding on his right leg.
Lacayo’s 51-yard field goal as time expired sneaked just over the crossbar and gave the Wild a 33-31 win over Dodge City in the semifinals of the Champions Professional Indoor Football League Playoffs.
Wichita will look to defend its CPIFL championship next Saturday when it is host to Sioux City. Lacayo is probably already thinking about how that one might go.
“Even before games, I kind of go through the whole game before the game,” Lacayo said. “It’s kind of mental training. I see every kick. There’s always times at the end of my mental training, I always say, ‘This last (play) is a kick.’ You want to feel the emotions, you want to feel everything.
“I’m always hoping it comes down to me. I’m always hoping, on fourth down, that I can go out there. I just like to help the guys.”
Lacayo, who made a 55-yarder last week to help Wichita clinch the top seed in the playoffs, missed his first three tries Saturday, but there wasn’t much cause for alarm and Lacayo said his confidence wasn’t affected.
One miss came when Lacayo was told by coach Paco Martinez to kick out of bounds on a 63-yard attempt. Another kick was blocked, and Lacayo’s third try hit the post. Lacayo, who led all CPIFL kickers in scoring, got back on track with a 26-yarder that put Wichita ahead 24-19 in the fourth.
“I had the right rhythm during pregame, I didn’t miss a single kick, with a 60-yarder back there,” Lacayo said. “… The rhythm is there. As long as I have my extra points down, I’ll be in a rhythm. The one kick that I did miss that hit the crossbar, it happens, we’re not always perfect.”
Lacayo’s first field goal came during a back-and-forth final quarter that saw both teams make plays that could have led to a permanent surge in momentum but never did. The lead changed hands six times in the fourth, three times in the final 65 seconds.
Dodge City’s last stand was a 39-yard touchdown pass from Joshua Floyd to Maurice Young that put the Law ahead 31-30 with 49 seconds to go. The fourth failed two-point conversion of the fourth – the third by Dodge City – kept Wichita within a point and kept alive the possibility that a field goal would win it.
“We had a lot of time,” Hinds said. “This is indoor football, it’s easy to score. When we get the ball back, we’re already in field goal range. We were down by (one point), so I knew at worst case we would kick for a game-winner. I’m just disappointed in myself on that last drive, taking sacks and not getting us downfield.”
Hinds’ inability to move the offense just created more drama for Lacayo, who said he felt no nerves because he has been kicking indoors for three seasons and because he had already experienced the winning kick in his mind.
That’s why it was OK that Lacayo didn’t have to actually see the kick go through. He felt it, and he knew.
“All of my long kicks, if you see on video, by the time that ball hits I’m already at the stands,” Lacayo said. “It’s a kicker thing. You know when you hit a good strike of the ball, that’s going in nine times out of 10.”
DC—Wood 52 FG
W—Kassanavoid 8 pass from Hinds (Lacayo kick)
DC—Floyd 1 run (Wood kick)
DC—Wood 25 FG
W—Kelly 37 pass from Hinds (Lacayo kick)
W—Kelly 9 pass from Hinds (Lacayo kick)
DC—Carson 12 run (pass failed)
W—Lacayo 25 FG
DC—Carson 2 run (pass failed)
W—Hubbard 1 run (pass failed)
DC—Young 39 pass from Floyd (run failed)
W—Lacayo 51 FG