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Yodice column: Manzano impressively caps title season

Let’s put a bow on this prep football season, shall we?

MOVE OVER, HIGHLAND: Manzano’s state championship made the Monarchs, who began playing in 1960, the first public Albuquerque high school not named La Cueva to win a title since Highland in 1989.

“I can’t believe we brought home the first-ever state title by Manzano,” coach Chad Adcox said.

This win should serve as a healthy development for prep football in this city and, in theory, it ought to light a fire under other local programs — Volcano Vista, anyone? — who believe they could someday ascend to these grandiose heights. Whether it will actually accomplish that or not, your guess is as good as mine.

We’ve now had four straight big-school champions from the North who went undefeated, although Manzano is the first Albuquerque school to go unbeaten since that vaunted La Cueva group of 2004.

This season clearly, and deservedly, belonged to Manzano. The Monarchs won with power, speed, experience, confidence, a great running game, a stellar defense and by committing just eight turnovers during a 13-0 season.

“It’s good to make history,” Monarchs linebacker Alejandro Vallejos said.

For standout quarterback Jordan Byrd, you could practically hear him exhaling in the aftermath. Turns out, he was at “70 percent” physically, Adcox said, a reference to a knee injury suffered two weeks earlier against Clovis. Byrd clearly did not look like himself on Saturday, though he did score the game’s first touchdown.

“It’s just more relief than joy,” Byrd said. “There’s a lot of pressure off my back now.”

BEAR TRAPS: Full and deserved credit to La Cueva. I’m not sure the Bears could have done much more to beat Manzano than they did.

Their dinged-up starting tailback, D’Andre Williams, played little and was ineffective. In a surprise to almost everyone, including myself, La Cueva sent out junior Dylan Summer — with a confirmed torn ACL in his knee, a knee that will be operated on in a couple of weeks, coach Brandon Back said — to start the game, and Summer did what he could. (It was a great bit of misdirection by La Cueva to keep Summer’s status under wraps.)

By my count, the Bears had five different players take a snap on Saturday. And their best receiver, Reece Wilkinson, apparently was very much under the weather in the 24 hours leading up to kickoff.

La Cueva threw everything it could offensively at Manzano. And that Bears defense was marvelous. Except for the first half of the first meeting with Cleveland, that was the best I’ve seen that unit perform all year.

OTHER CHAMPIONS: Artesia returned to familiar territory, obliterating previously unbeaten Belen 48-14 in the 5A final. That was an excellent team the Bulldogs dismantled as they captured their 30th state title.

Thirty. It sounds almost made up, doesn’t it?

On Sunday, I went back and added up all the big-school state champions from Albuquerque since NMAA records began in 1950. I counted 13: five for Highland, four for La Cueva, and one each by Manzano, Eldorado, Sandia and Del Norte.

In 4A, Ruidoso outscored Robertson 57-54 in Las Vegas. The combined 111 points tied an 11-man state record for points in a state final, matching the total put up by Mayfield (69) and Manzano (42) at Wilson Stadium in 2010.

Class 3A Eunice ended a 17-year drought with another commanding performance, 34-13 over Capitan. The Cardinals, like Manzano, finished 13-0.

THIS AND THAT: The Ruidoso player who scored the game-winning touchdown with 5 seconds left Saturday, Gabe Dorame, is a cousin both to Albuquerque High athletic director/girls basketball coach Doug Dorame and to St. Pius football coach Dave Montoya. … The combined 21 points in the 6A final were the fewest scored in the big-school division for a championship game since Mayfield beat Goddard 13-7 in 1998. … A reminder: next year, the larger divisions will contest their title games on Thanksgiving weekend, with Week 1 action for everyone moving up one week, as well. … The NMAA said there was no official word yet on crowd sizes at Bulldog Bowl and Wilson Stadium.