LAS CRUCES — This time, it was Manzano that authored the comeback.
The Monarchs not only trailed Centennial by two touchdowns at the Field of Dreams on Saturday afternoon, they also had two TDs erased by penalties.
But through all of that, No. 5 seed Manzano scratched its way into the next round of the football playoffs, overcoming the fourth-seeded Hawks 24-21 in the Class 6A quarterfinals.
With its eighth straight victory, Manzano (10-2) advances to play at No. 1 Rio Rancho (11-0) in the semifinals at 1 p.m. Saturday. The Rams were the last team to defeat the Monarchs, 64-27 on Sept. 23.
Manzano’s only other loss was to Centennial, a game the Monarchs led 21-7 at half but lost 28-21 in Week 2.
And Manzano almost didn’t advance; the Monarchs had to stage a late scoring drive in the fourth quarter to oust Centennial (8-3) in the rematch.
“Fight — that’s what these kids have been about,” Manzano coach Chad Adcox said. “We don’t have the size of a Rio Rancho or a Cleveland, but we’ve got some fight.”
Sophomore running back Xavier Ivey-saud scored on a 3-yard run with 3:32 left in the game for the game-winning, points. Moments earlier, Ivey-saud had kept the drive alive by converting a short fourth-down run.
Manzano had outstanding field position on that final drive.
After Joaquin Gutierrez of the Hawks —who had a huge day — scored on a 5-yard run with 6:02 left, Centennial led 21-17.
But the ensuing kickoff, either a squib or an onside kick, backfired, and Manzano took over at its 48.
Centennial led 14-0 late in the first half Saturday. But Manzano scored 10 points in the final 3½ minutes of the second quarter. Jordan Byrd threw a 21-yard scoring pass to Tristan Gallegos and, after the Hawks went for a short fourth down in their territory and failed, Manzano tacked on a 33-yard field goal by Josh Soliz.
Midway through the third quarter, Manzano seized the lead for the first time, as Andrew Erickson took a short screen pass in the middle and turned it into an 83-yard touchdown for a 17-14 Monarchs advantage.
“The last time we came down here,” Adcox said, “we came out like a bat out of hell, but fizzled out. Today, I don’t think we came out flat, but their kids came out ready to play.”
CLASS 5A: No. 1 Artesia belted No. 8 Alamogordo 56-29 on Saturday in the last quarterfinal. The Bulldogs will play host to No. 5 Los Lunas at 1 p.m. next Saturday in the semifinals.
The other semifinal has No. 3 Roswell at No. 2 St. Pius at 7 p.m. Friday at Nusenda Community Stadium.
CLASS 4A: The semifinals have No. 7 St. Michael’s facing No. 2 Portales, and undefeated Robertson taking on defending state champion Hatch Valley, the 5 seed.