By Kevin Wilson
Manzano came into Leon Williams Stadium Friday night with a four-game winning streak against Clovis, with the last margin of the three each coming by a touchdown.
They held on again, this time by a few feet, escaping Clovis with a 14-13 win as freshman Jesus Hernandez’ game-winning field goal attempt sailed wide in the final seconds.
“I’m happy we got out of here with a win,” Manzano coach Chad Adcox said. “It’s not easy to get a win here. It was ugly, but sometimes you have to win ugly.”
Each team broke through on offense with a combination of big plays and opposition mistakes.
Manzano (3-0) went first, with Charles Countee opening up the scoring on a 30-yard reception three minutes in. Near the end of the quarter, Jesse Wiley returned an interception inside the Clovis 10, and the Monarchs got a Julian Moore touchdown reception on a one-play drive. After that, the Monarchs managed just 133 yards of offense and four first downs.
“No. 1, we gave them a touchdown on a big play,” Clovis coach Eric Roanhaus said. “The offense gave them another touchdown with the interception. Really, our defense gave up the first touchdown, and then they played great. We can win with the kind of defense we played tonight.”
The Wildcats, however, did not have the offensive execution to take advantage outside of a seven-minute stretch in the second quarter.
An interception by Kaine Bender got the Wildcats the ball at the Manzano 42, and Kamal Cass burst down the sideline on the ensuing offensive play at make it 14-7. At the five-minute mark, Manzano had a shanked punt out of bounds at their 43, and the Wildcats scored three plays later on a 40-yard pass from Dakotah Yandell to Traivon Sopila.
After that, Clovis (1-2) won the offensive categories but never capitalized on the scoreboard to either take the lead or make up for a missed conversion attempt following Sopila’s touchdown.
The Wildcats outgained Manzano 139-85 in the second half, but had drives that stalled at the Manzano 18 and 15, and another at the Monarch 11 in the first half.
“We wasted so many chances in the red zone,” Roanhaus said. “We were in there about five times; got nothing from it.”
Given the missed opportunities on offense, Roanhaus saw little reason to pin blame on Hernandez, a freshman asked to take on kicking duties with starting kicker Matt Wagener and backup kicker Luke Bussen both at a soccer tournament. Before the final kick, Hernandez had made 1-of-2 extra points, with one blocked, and his three deep kickoffs resulted in one touchback and Manzano drives that started at the 13 and 6 on the other two.
“Jesus did a good job kicking for us,” Roanhaus said. “We had two opportunities earlier to go for the field goal, but I didn’t want to put him in that situation. Then at the end of the game, we had no choice.”
Cass finished with 117 yards on 27 carries, with the touchdown run his only carry of more than at least 20 yards against a Manzano defense looking to stop the big play.
“That’s the plan, keep Cass under control,” Adcox said. “He’s the best back in the state, and we just want to keep him under control.”