When the Sandia High football team returned an interception for a touchdown late in the Oct. 19 battle between the Matadors and Manzano, the Monarchs needed a big play to maintain their lead.

Manzano ended up producing two big plays that helped the Monarchs hold on for a 19-11 district victory at Albuquerque’s Wilson Stadium.

Following their fourth-quarter pick-six and subsequent 2-point conversion to make it a one-possession game, the Matadors (2-6, 0-2) went for an onside kick with just under three minutes remaining.

Manzano’s Austin Erickson—who had two touchdowns in the game—pounced on the bouncing kick, keeping the Matadors from getting the ball back.

Then, when the Monarchs’ offense went three-and-out and punted to Sandia—giving the Matadors one last chance with just over a minute left—Manzano’s defense slammed the door.

“They [the defense] did an awesome job,” Manzano head coach Phillip Martinez said.

Several late penalties—including personal fouls by both teams—had tempers flaring and carried over to a minor postgame squabble.

“It was unfortunate the way it played out, I’m not very happy with all the penalties,” Martinez said. “We’ve gotta be more mature and handle those a little bit better.”

The game began with Manzano capitalizing on a Sandia punt that shanked out of bounds, giving the Monarchs good field position for their opening drive.

Erickson—who lives in Sandia Park—capped the drive with a 30-yard touchdown run to put the Monarchs ahead 6-0.

After Sandia got on the board with a field goal, Erickson scored his second touchdown of the game early in the second quarter.

Facing third-and-7 on their own 33-yard line, Monarchs quarterback Dakota Powell, who lives in Cedar Crest, connected on a short pass over the middle to Erickson who outran a pair of Sandia defenders for a 67-yard catch-and-run TD to push the lead to 13-3.

“It was a good game,” Erickson said. “It was a good breakout game for me personally.”

Erickson had three pass receptions for 94 yards and seven carries for 19 yards to go with his two TDs.

Midway through the third quarter, Erickson ran into the end zone again for what would’ve been his third TD, but a penalty negated it.

On the next play,  Xavier Ivey-saud scampered into the end zone to boost Manzano’s lead to 19-3.

Ivey-saud led Manzano in rushing with 127 yards on 23 carries.

A Sandia possession late in the fourth quarter stalled when the Monarchs’ defense sacked the Matadors’ quarterback on fourth down.

But on the first play after Manzano took over on downs, Powell’s pass was picked off and returned for Sandia’s only TD of the game with 2:53 left.

“Sandia came to play today, that’s for sure, they have a good team over there,” Powell said. “We just gotta focus on ourselves and fix what we can fix.”

Powell was 5 for 19 passing for 96 yards.

With the win, the Monarchs improved to 4-4 overall, 2-1 in District 2/5-6A and prepare for their Oct. 25 regular-season finale against Eldorado (5-3, 0-2).

“We’ve put together two good weeks in a row now and I’m very happy to see that,” Martinez said, adding, “We have a very young team out on the field and hopefully they all just keep learning and getting better.”