As one of only two undefeated teams left in 2A, Manitou Springs has quickly learned about being a target.
Johnny Swanson wears it with pride.
The senior quarterback threw a touchdown pass and ran for another, while accounting for 136 total yards and helping Manitou Springs stay undefeated and grab at least a share of the league title with a 14-6 victory over Trinidad on Friday at Richardson Field.
"Being undefeated, we're the team to beat," Swanson said. "It's a new experience, but it's a good feeling. Everyone wants to beat us. I'm just proud of the team being able to come out and dig deep. We knew it would be a battle."
Swanson led the Mustangs (8-0, 6-0 2A Tri-Peaks) to a touchdown on their first possession after holding the Miners (4-4, 4-2) to zero yards on their first three plays.
Swanson gained 12 yards over left end on the second play of the drive, then Morgan Burnell extended the possession with a 7-yard gain on fourth and 2 from the Trinidad 27. Three plays later, Swanson fired a pass to Danny McGee, and the junior turned the slant into a 17-yard touchdown connection and a 7-0 lead.
Manitou didn't score on its next possession, but Burnell's punt was downed at the Trinidad 2 - one of his four kicks that pinned the Miners inside their 15.
The Miners, behind fullback Eric Lopez, embarked on an 18-play drive that took 8:47 off the clock. The senior's 24-yard, tackle-breaking run put Trinidad on the board, but it still trailed 7-6 after Darian Lujan's extra-point attempt missed.
Swanson returned the second-half kickoff 36 yards to the Trinidad 44, then called his own number three plays later, following his blockers around the right side, before cutting back into the open field for a 36-yard score.
After that, Manitou managed only three first downs but left the rest to its defense, which recovered two fumbles and sacked Trinidad quarterback Alan Ruiz four times.
Friday's effort marked the sixth time this season that the Mustangs have held opponents to single-digit scoring.
"We just stuck in there, kept our heads in there and had to play our best game of the year on defense," Burnell said. "Our defense keeps us in games. Now, we're focusing on next week. That is our most important game of the season. That's how we go about our business."
The final result also netted Manitou Springs no worse than a tie for the Tri-Peaks League crown, an accomplishment coach Danny Gieck wasn't quite ready to embrace.
"Our main goal is not to worry about what everybody else has to do, but worry about what we have to do," said Gieck, a Manitou Springs alumnus. "Our kids have done a great job taking each game one at a time and not overlooking anybody."