ARVADA — In a rematch of the last two Class 5A football championship games, No. 1 Valor Christian saw the same result in a 34-21 win on Friday.
"We still have work to do," Running back Joshia Davis said. "This is a great win, but we're never going to keep our heads too high. We're going to still put in work every single day. We're going to be a better team next week."
The Eagles took advantage of key Pomona mistakes in the win.
With No. 2 Pomona threatening in the redzone in the first quarter, Ryan Marquez watched an errant snap sail over his head for a huge loss, knocking the Panthers out of field goal range.
"I was proud of how we responded when a young team could have folded and let them have momentum," Valor Christian head coach Rod Sherman said. "I thought there were a few of those times. It would have been really easy for a young team to fold, and we didn't."
Pomona was forced to punt and forego points, down 10-0. That became a trend too often for the Panthers to overcome.
On the first play of Valor Christian's drive, Davis broke through the line and bolted for an 80-yard touchdown run to put the Eagles up 17-0. Davis had a three-touchdown night in the backfield.
"I thought it was probably his all-around best football game," Sherman said. "Last week, he did an unbelievable job catching the ball out of the backfield, so I think he showed his versatility. He ran through some tackles, got extra yards when we needed them and made a lot of things happen. You can see what a versatile player he is between the lines."
Pomona quarterback Ryan Marquez put the Panthers on the board on a huge fourth down conversion. Marquez escaped the pocket sprinting to his right, then threw across his body for a 34-yard touchdown as Riley Govan reached up and wrestled the ball away from a Valor Christian defender.
Marquez's effort made it 17-7, and Pomona had another chance to close the lead before halftime. With Pomona in the redzone again, Ryan Thibault intercepted a Marquez pass with 32 seconds left to keep the Panthers off the board.
"Our defense came out firing and we just fed off them," Davis said. "We came out knowing they're a great team. We scouted for them and we feel like we executed very well."
Davis' tough running showed up again in Valor's first possession of the second half. He broke a few tackles and dragged a couple defenders into the endzone with him to extend the lead.
Max Borghi didn't let the deficit last long. He took the kickoff back 93 yards for the score as he dodged his way through a field of defenders, then beat the rest with pure speed.
"What could have been the turning points could have been when they got emotion from the interception, the kickoff return, long pass plays," Sherman said. "That's where I'm most proud of our guys. We were consistent in our effort, consistent in our execution. We didn't let those become turning points."
Brian Brogan's 41-yard field goal and a 51-yard rushing touchdown from Davis gave Valor Christian separation as the team took a 34-21 lead into the final quarter.
Pomona never did quit as Marquez found David Ross streaking down the sideline for 78 yards and the score.
After Brogan put a 37-yard field goal through the uprights to break the scoreless affair in the second quarter, Valor Christian's Luke McCaffrey completed a 40-yard pass to Kaiden Keefe, setting up the Eagles at the 11.
Blake Stenstrom re-entered the game and put Valor Christian in the endzone for the first time in the game. Stenstrom moved around in the pocket, escaped pressure and threw off back foot to find Keefe for an 11-yard touchdown, making it 10-0 Valor Christian.
"With our nonconference schedule, having enough energy every week to match the energy of what we knew we were going to get from our opponents is a challenge," Sherman said. "I'm so proud of our guys for that fact. I thought Pomona came out really hard, ready to go, but I thought our guys came out physical and ready to go as well."
With Pomona looking to strike back, Marquez and Billy Pospisil connected for a a 51-yard completion, then a pass interference call moved the Panthers up to the 14.
The snap went over Marquez's head and prevented Pomona from getting sure points.
Valor Christian smelled blood and Davis took the first snap 80 yards for the touchdown.
Marquez responded with a dazzling display of arm strength and pocket presence as he found Pospisil and Ross for big touchdowns, but the Valor Christian defense held strong, and the offense steadily produced in the win.
"It can do two things," Davis said. "It can give us confidence, and we come out knowing that we can play. Or we keep doing what we're doing and keep playing with good effort."