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Battle of Albuquerque, Manzano takes on La Cueva

It’s the battle of Albuquerque as undefeated, top-seeded Manzano takes on second-seeded district rival La Cueva at Wilson Stadium Saturday afternoon for the state 6A football championship

They met once during the regular season and the Monarchs rode to a 28-21 win over the visiting Bears, now they seek their first state title

Arnie Leshin

By ARNIE LESHIN, Santa Fe Today

To say that Albuquerque Manzano is overdue is an understatement.

To say that Albuquerque La Cueva seeks revenge falls into the same category.

The two District 2-6A rivals meet up again in Saturday afternoon’s state football championship at Wilson Stadium, kickoff 1 o’clock, with the undefeated Monarchs designated as the home team. While they went 12-0, the lone defeat for 11-1 La Cueva came at Manzano, 28-21, back on Dec. 6.

It was a contest that saw the Monarchs wipe out a scoreless opening quarter by scoring three times in the second quarter, all via touchdowns. It was 28-21-7 after three quarters, and La Cueva scored twice in the final quarter to make it closer, but it was too late.

While the Bears have won four state titles, the last in 2009, Manzano has yet to hoist the blue trophy despite many chances, and that’s the only thing that head coach Chad Adcox’ team is in quest of. Six times it has played in the state tournament, only once has it had a losing season in the last 13 years, there were two .500 campaigns, and winning state has not come to pass.

In 1996 and 2010 the Monarchs gained the championship game. In ’96, it was a 14-0 loss to Mayfield. In ’10, it was a 69-42 setback, again to Mayfield.

Now it’s La Cueva standing before them and a title. It also won state in 2003. 2004 and 2009. It is the perfect match-up, number one versus number two. The Bears, coached by Brandon Back, are led by 6-foot-3, 195-pound junior Dylan Summer. He has engineered the offense with 35 touchdown passes, piled up 2,492 yards and completed 166 of 301 passes. That’s an average of 226.5 yards per game. He has also been intercepted 13 times.

On the defensive side, La Cueva’s 6-1, 190 junior Fred Mady III, has been the main man. He has come away with 79 tackles, 48 solo, and has 11 sacks. The Bears have yielded 169 points while scoring 474. They have won four in a row since the Monarchs setback.

Manzano is just as much a threat on offense as La Cueva. It has turned in 535 points and has given up 137. But in a contest like this, the statistics don’t mean all that much, what does is how the ball bounces. Another thing, the Bears are 4-0 in the championship games.

Jordan Byrd, a 6-foot, 160 senior, quarterbacks an offense that can put the ball in the air and run it along the ground. He has thrown 14 TD passes and has run for six. There’s also versatile 5-8, 160 senior Alejandro Vallejos, and he plays inside linebacker, runs the ball, catches it, and is quick to rush the passer. And Keion Pringle, a 6-1, 205 senior, has run for six touchdowns and is also a sure-handed receiver.

Coming into this contest, La Cueva has had a pair of tough tasks after an opening-round bye. It got past 7th seeded Albuquerque Eldorado, 38-35, and then rallied to defeat 3rd seeded Rio Rancho Cleveland. That’s 75 points for and 69 against, but the W is what counts.

Manzano has had it easier after it drew a first-round bye. It rolled over 9th seeded Clovis, 45-7, and followed by ousting 4th seeded Las Cruces, 28-10. That’s outscoring the two challengers, 73-17.

But those games are now history. The Monarchs are the home team, but the Bears are very familiar with the stadium and should fill half the place.

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