As the final seconds ticked away in the Nov. 16 Class 6A state quarterfinals between Manzano and the Cleveland Storm, Monarchs senior quarterback Dakota Powell threw the final touchdown pass of his high school career.

From the Cleveland 4-yard line, Powell tossed the ball to his teammate—and fellow East Mountain resident—Austin Erickson who stepped into the end zone with 1.6 seconds left on the clock.

After the subsequent 2-point conversion, Manzano still trailed by three touchdowns but it didn’t matter.

Jack Blankenship caught two passes inside the 10-yard line that led to Manzano touchdowns. Photo by G. Demarest.

By that point, the Monarchs were just playing for pride.

“That’s just the team we are,” Monarchs head coach Phillip Martinez said. “Manzano has a bunch of kids who never quit, the heart of the lion showed till that clock hit zero.”

The top-ranked Storm (11-0) never trailed in the matchup, thundering to an early 21-0 lead on their way to eliminating Manzano with a 41-22 victory at their home stadium in Rio Rancho.

The No. 8 Monarchs (7-5) took a while to get their offense in gear—punting, turning the ball over on downs, and losing a fumble before getting on the board midway through the second quarter when Powell connected on a 39-yard touchdown pass to Erickson.

“Dakota threw a perfect pass to me and I just strolled in,” Erickson said. He totaled 61 yards receiving to go with his two TDs.

Following a Cleveland field goal, Manzano senior receiver Jack Blankenship, who lives in Cedar Crest, caught a pass inside the 5-yard line to set up the Monarchs’ second touchdown—a 1-yard dive by Xavier Ivey-saud to trim the gap to 24-14 just before halftime.

Ivey-saud totaled 117 yards rushing.

In the fourth quarter, the Storm added a field goal and a touchdown before intercepting a Powell pass that led to their final TD.

“Cleveland’s a great team, they’ve got a great coaching staff and great players over there,” Martinez said. “You can’t make the mistakes we made against really good teams like that, they didn’t let it slip by.”

The Monarchs’ final drive started on their own 27 with 1:09 remaining. Powell completed three passes to Blankenship to get inside the Storm 5-yard line with six seconds left to set up his final touchdown pass to Erickson.

Blankenship tallied 97 yards on six receptions. Powell had 158 yards passing.

“We have fight, we have heart,” Erickson said, adding, “It’s just a learning experience, we’ll work harder and come back.”