SANTA TERESA – It was money in the bank.
With three seconds to go in the game and trailing by two, Alamogordo senior kicker Brett Money trotted out onto the field with a cool, calm demeanor.
He lined up a 29-yard field goal attempt and nailed it for the win.
Alamogordo edged past Santa Teresa 27-26 in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs Friday night at Dream Catcher Stadium.
The 8-seeded Tigers advance to the quarterfinal round where they meet No. 1 Roswell High. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday in Roswell.
How it happened
Santa Teresa was hosting its first state playoff game since 1998. The contest had the makings of being a barn burner.
The Warriors struggled to find a rhythm on offense early on as they went three-and-out on their first series with a punt on fourth-and-seven.
Alamogordo (4-6) answered back with a grueling drive, capped off by a 16-yard touchdown run by Michael Audette with 8:05 in the opening quarter.
Both teams stalled on their next drives. Santa Teresa tried to gain a first down on a fake punt run but failed to convert on fourth-and-10.
Holding onto a 7-0 lead, the Tigers got three points from Money who made a 22-yard field goal with 11:57 in the second quarter.
The Warriors finally got on the board with a seven-yard touchdown run by Matthew Lopez with 7:38 to go until halftime.
Down by three points, Santa Teresa forced the Tigers to punt but it couldn’t muster up any positive gains on offense.
Santa Teresa’s defense was pinned back on the 29-yard line after a botched snap on the punt. The Tigers capitalized on a flea flicker from Ryan Villescas to Elias Gonzales from 29 yards out which extended the Alamogordo lead to 17-7.
In the second half, Sean Hays scored on a three-yard run to extend Alamogordo’s lead to 17 points.
The Warriors (7-3) answered back with a five-yard touchdown run by Adrian Rodriguez with 5:46 left in the third quarter.
Santa Teresa looked revitalized after the touchdown. The defense blocked a field goal attempt by Alamogordo and Isidro Talavera returned it to the three-yard line for the Warriors.
Lopez found Rodriguez for a three-yard score. After the missed extra point, Santa Teresa trailed by four points with 1:41 remaining in the third quarter.
To start the final quarter, Alamogordo punted away on fourth-and-20. The Warriors later converted a fourth-and-one situation with a one-yard touchdown run by Lopez. The two-point conversion was unsuccessful as Santa Teresa took its first lead of the night, 26-24.
Alamogordo later put together a nice drive, but Matthew Muñoz came away with an interception for the Warriors.
Santa Teresa was forced to punt on fourth-and-two which allowed Alamogordo to put itself in a position to win.
What the coaches said
Alamogordo advances to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2016.
“I’m proud of our entire group of kids,” Alamogordo head coach AJ Cisco said. “This senior class that I got when I came in … they’ve been through the grinder with us.
“To see them persevere and come through in a crucial situation like that … they never faltered. Money made a big kick for us. Our kids played their tails off.”
Santa Teresa was in the playoffs for the second straight year, and this season was special for the Warriors considering how much young talent they had on the field.
Unfortunately, the outcome wasn’t what they had expected. Santa Teresa had come away with a 14-7 win over Alamogordo back on Sept. 13 on the road, but it couldn’t win the second edition.
“Down 17, we did a great job coming back,” Santa Teresa head coach Shae Vierra said. “We started off the game a little tight. Once we got into a groove, we were able to make plays.
“Unfortunately, they made the play at the end.”
It takes a lot of poise for a player, regardless of their grade, to come out and make a big play.
For Money, it was just another day at the office.
“They grinded all game,” Money said. “They gave me the opportunity to win the game for them. It feels good.
“It proves that we’re really a good team. I think we’re gonna surprise a lot of people against Roswell next week. We’re reaching the peak of our potential right now.”
Peter Dindinger is a freelancer for the Las Cruces Sun-News and can be reached at email@example.com.