Manzano High’s football coach Chad Adcox has his team believing in what he calls “the process,” and it lifted the Monarchs to a 41-13 rout over the Sandia Matadors in the first round of the Class 6A state football playoffs last Friday at Wilson Stadium.

“It’s all about the process,” said Adcox, who notched his first career playoff victory as a head coach. “Just focus on the little things, focus on the next play, and the kids did that.”

Orlando Perez, Jordan Byrd and Andrew Erickson rushed for two touchdowns apiece as the No. 8 Monarchs knocked off the ninth-seeded Matadors.

With the win the Monarchs advance to Friday’s quarterfinal game against the top-ranked Cleveland Storm.

“It’s awesome, it’s what we wanted, we had a game plan and we took care of the process,” said Manzano senior running back Marcus Gutierrez, echoing his coach’s philosophy.

Gutierrez, a Sandia Park resident, had 19 carries for 75 yards.

On the game’s opening kickoff the Matadors’ Jimmy Gallegos, one of the leading running backs in the state, found a hole and was on his way to the end zone but Manzano kicker Griffin Burgos saved a touchdown with his first-ever tackle and dislocated his finger on the takedown.

“I’ve never had to make a tackle before,” said Burgos, who lives in Sandia Park. “I tried to wrap his legs but he just kinda fell on top of me.”

Manzano’s defense held Sandia to a field goal and the Matadors took an early 3-0 lead.

It didn’t last long.

Byrd capped Manzano’s six-play opening drive with a 62-yard scamper to put the Monarchs up 7-3.

The Matadors answered with a 63-yard TD pass to Gallegos to go up 10-7.

Early in the second quarter Erickson scored the first of his two TDs.

Later in the quarter the Monarchs orchestrated a 16-play, 75-yard offensive drive that consumed more than 8 minutes of clock time and ended with Perez plunging into the end zone for a 20-10 halftime lead.

“We needed to control the clock, limit their opportunities—it was win or go home,” Adcox said.

Erickson scored his second touchdown late in the third quarter.

Midway through the fourth, on first-and-10 at the Manzano 32-yard line, Byrd caught a short screen pass to the left side and appeared to be surrounded by Matadors for no gain.

Somehow he bounced loose, juked to the left and raced 68-yards to the end zone. “I don’t know what happened,” Byrd admitted with a smile. “I was just running and I got hit, and I spin, and I turned around and I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m still up,’ so I just took off.”

After the Monarchs recovered a Sandia fumble Perez added his second TD with 2:17 remaining.

“Jordan and Orlando had a big night, so did Marcus, and we got Andrew in the mix which was good, so it was a good night, we had fun,” Adcox said.

Manzano compiled nearly 450 yards on offense—a little more than 300 of that was on the ground—while the Monarchs’ defense held the Matadors to just a field goal in the second half.

“It means we get another week to play,” Adcox said, referring to Friday’s quarterfinal against Cleveland—the team that trounced Manzano 53-0 in the season opener.

“We’re not the same team that went out there in that opening game,” Adcox said. “Now we’re a little more seasoned and the kids believe in what we’re telling them.”