Manitou Springs announced its presence to the rest of the state Friday night with a 26-14 win over traditional powerhouse Florence to take control of the 2A Tri-Peaks League.
The Mustangs (5-0, 3-0 2A Tri Peaks) exorcised some demons from the last several years at home in front of a large crowd.
"You have no idea how good this feels," senior Drew Faloon said. "There are a lot of emotions running through all of us right now. This team can go as far as we want to if we keep playing like this."
The Mustangs took control of the game early and never let go. On their first possession Manitou drove 60 yards, capped by a 20-yard pass from Johnny Swanson to Dustin Bohnert.
One of the biggest plays of the game came with Florence driving deep into Manitou territory midway through the second quarter.
On a second-and-goal play Florence quarterback Zach Hoxie rolled left but was grabbed by Tristen Damon, who stripped the ball right into the arms of Malachi Peterson. The junior was off to the races, returning the fumble 90 yards to give Manitou a 12-0 lead at the half.
"I just took it right out of his hands," Peterson said. "We were really able to put it to them tonight. The last time I beat Florence was as a freshman, but that was a JV game."
Faloon would make huge back-to-back plays in the opening minutes of the third quarter. He first intercepted a Hoxie pass at the Florence 31-yard line, and then ran for a touchdown on the next play to give his team a 19-0 lead and stun the Huskies.
From there, the Manitou defense would continue to be stout - as it had been for most of the night. Aside from a 25-yard Hoxie scoring run near the end of the third quarter, which cut it to 19-8, Florence had trouble moving the ball all game.
"One of our goals this season was to go further than we did last year, and last year at this time we lost this game to Florence," Manitou coach Danny Gieck said. Gieck was pleased with his team's fight and grit.
Florence would sneak in another touchdown with four seconds left in regulation to make the final margin 12. "The team that made the most of their opportunities won the game; we had our share of opportunities and we didn't," Florence coach Jeremy Nix said.