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It really doesn’t matter where the schedule-makers put Manzano and Volcano Vista.
These two always manage to put on a great show.
The inaugural regular-season game at Community Stadium certainly had its rough edges, but in the end, the Monarchs and Hawks – as they tend to do – authored a tense, memorable finale.
For Manzano on Wednesday night, quarterback Angel Gonzales hit Josh Alvarez on a 10-yard, fourth-down touchdown pass with 1.4 seconds remaining, as the Monarchs stunningly rallied past Volcano Vista 17-14.
“I saw Josh come over, and he had a step on (the linebacker),” Gonzales said. “And he just caught a bad ball. But great players make great plays.”
The score capped a frenzied final five minutes that featured two lead changes.
A festive crowd of about 4,000 to 4,500 opened the first new Albuquerque Public Schools football stadium since 1963.
There wasn’t much great football in the first three quarters, but the fourth quarter delivered in spades.
Trailing 10-6, Volcano Vista marched 97 yards for the go-ahead score with 1:04 left in the game.
It was a 14-play drive in which the Hawks did almost all their damage with running backs Ibra Dominguez and Dominico Chavez.
Sophomore quarterback Josh Williams capped the impressive drive with a 1-yard sneak. He also threw a 2-point conversion pass to Bryce Brooks, forcing Manzano to score a touchdown to win the game.
Given the way the Volcano Vista defense had been playing, a 14-10 lead seemed secure.
It was not.
Gonzales hit Alvarez on an 11-yard pass on a third-and-10 early in the drive. That was followed by pass interference penalty on the Hawks – the first of two such flags on Volcano Vista on the decisive drive.
On a third-and-2 from the 36, Gonzales threw 21 yards over the middle to Charles Countee.
Manzano was flagged five yards back to the 20, where it had a first down.
There were three incomplete passes, setting up a fourth-and-15.
Gonzales threw into the end zone for Countee, but Volcano was hit with another pass interference penalty, and the Monarchs had it fourth-and-5 from the 10 with 5.5 seconds to go.
Gonzales, on the game-winning TD throw, had as much time to pass as he did on any snap all night.
“Volcano Vista has a really good defense,” Alvarez said. “Their front four is pretty stellar.”
On the touchdown, Gonzales was under no pressure whatsoever. His first look was to Countee in the corner of the end zone, but a Hawks safety slid over to help on the coverage, so he checked underneath to Alvarez.
“He (the defender) got a fingertip on it,” Alvarez said. He bobbled slightly before collecting the ball just as he rolled into the end zone.
In the past four years, Manzano has beaten Volcano Vista four times by a combined 12 points. There are two 1-point victories for the Monarchs, and then Wednesday’s heroics.
“It’s every year with these guys,” VVHS coach Chad Wallin said. “They executed at the end, and we didn’t.”
Manzano had only two impressive drives. The last one, and the first one.
The Monarchs’ opening drive led to a 28-yard field goal by Adam Hill.
Late in the first half, Manzano went up 10-0 on a Volcano Vista mistake.
Deep in their own end, a shotgun snap went over Williams’ head and was recovered in the end zone by Manzano’s Cameron McMahan. It was 10-0 at halftime.
“We didn’t look good on offense,” Manzano coach Chad Adcox said. “I’m very unhappy with our offense tonight.”
The Hawks’ Chavez finally got his team on the board with a 5-yard TD run with 5.6 seconds left in the third quarter. Manzano blocked the PAT and led 10-6.