Max Borghi has a bad taste in his mouth. And it's a familiar one at that. For the second consecutive season, he and Pomona will enter the football season coming off a loss in the Class 5A state championship game.
Even worse, his season prematurely ended with an injury. Without him, and others, Pomona couldn't play to the level that it was hoping for and a state title eluded the school once again.
That certainly is no reflection on the Panthers as a program or on Borghi as a player. He amassed over 1,300 yards from scrimmage in 2016. He found the endzone 20 times. Every time he was handed the ball, he ran for an average of 9.3 yards.
Those numbers helped him get the attention of Mike MacIntyre at the University of Colorado. In the fall of 2018, Borghi will be a Buff.
But it's still 2017.
He's still a Panther.
And he has unfinished business to attend to.
Question: You guys are heading into the season the same way you did last year, is there anything that you're focusing on this time around that you didn't a year ago after losing in the state title game?
Borghi: We just have to take it week by week. We can't think about the big picture yet. We still have a lot of work to do. And we have to stay healthy, that's a big thing for sure.
We don't even need to think about state. We still have 10 games before we even get there.
Q: Does losing that game make you a better competitor and a better football player down the line?
Borghi: Yeah. That obviously puts a fire in my chest, along with my whole team. We've been there a couple of times and we've been working for it. It sucks not coming away with a state title, but it just builds more character and puts more fire in our chest.
We're going to come out this season with something we haven't done before.
Q: On the injury front, having to come back and rehab in order to get back to the level you know you can play at, is that another thing that fuels you for the upcoming fall?
Borghi: Oh yeah. Especially not being able to play in the semifinals or the state title game. That really fuels my fire for sure.
I wanted to play in that game and worked worked hard the whole year and just had it taken away from me on a simple play. It built more character and it's taught me to work harder. It's given me more respect for the game.
Q: It didn't seem to hurt the recruitment process for you. What was it about the University of Colorado that made it the place for you?
Borghi: It felt like home. It felt like somewhere where I could go in and fit in well. I felt like I had a good shot at going into the program and maybe having a shot at playing as (Denver South grad Phillip) Lindsay is graduating.
Obviously playing in front of my hometown and my state is pretty cool.
Q: The big knock on the in-state schools has been their lack of recruiting in-state players. But Colorado has put an emphasis on the home-grown guys lately. What are you seeing from the program that makes it a place that in-state kids want to play for?
Borghi: The last season really has a big draw on it. I think, personally, they beat Colorado State because they're in the Pac 12. That's it for me, I want to play for a Power 5 school compared to a Mountain West school.
I think the pride and tradition that Colorado has is pretty sweet. You can really feel it when you're up there.
Q: That's a year down the line, though. Have you guys talked as a team about the unfinished business you want to take care of this year?
Borghi: Oh yeah. I'm not even thinking about college right now. I have my whole senior season and we're going to do something that we haven't done in a long time.
Q: What's Coach Madden been like this offseason? What has he been preaching to you guys to get you focused for 2017?
Borghi: He's just preaching that we're not the same team. We lost some guys and we need some guys to step up. We need the younger guys to take on big roles and it's not going to come easy.
Just because we were the big dogs last year doesn't mean that we're the big dogs this year.
Q: As a senior, what do you feel like you need to do to provide some leadership for those younger players looking to step up?
Borghi: Leadership is huge as a senior. Not even really just as a senior, but just for everyone.
Taking a role and creating a spark. Every game you need to do something to create that spark and take control.
Q: Have you started thinking about individual goals or team goals even though the season is still two months away?
Borghi: As a team, we obviously want to get back to that game. And not just get back there, but we want to seal the deal. We want to win it.
We have to take it week by week. That's huge. We all want to stay healthy of course.
Personally, I've made some goals. I want to go for the Gold Helmet Award this year. I want to score more touchdowns that I did last year. I want to do my thing. If I do my thing, I know I can make good things happen.
Q: But 20 touchdowns is a hefty number to beat. What's going to be the main factor in you getting to the end zone that many times.
Borghi: My o-line. The boys up front.
Q: You went through last year without Jake Moretti. Did that give some of those younger guys that you're counting on a good opportunity to get situated in your system?
Borghi: Yeah. We had some guys step up last year. We lost two o-linemen or so, but we have some young guys looking to step up. I know they'll get it done.
Q: What about the scheme? Is Coach Madden looking at doing anything differently or is he just sticking with what's been working the last couple of years?
Borghi: We're no longer that hit it up the gut, powerhouse football team that Pomona was back in the day.
We've changed it up a lot. I think we're going to keep getting creative with it because we have the skill that we can (do that). We're loaded with skill players all over the field; not just offensively, but defensively too.
Q: Aside from the football component, what are you looking to savor heading into your senior season?
Borghi: Making those memories with my buddies. I've been playing football with them since second grade, a lot of them. This is my last time with them so I have to make the most of it and make some good memories.
This will be something I'll remember for the rest of my life.