ARVADA -- The shortest distance between two points was a straight line Friday night on the football field at the North Area Athletic Complex.
Pomona broke out its wildcat offensive formation with tailback Chris Marquez taking a direct snap in the Class 5A North Metro League game against cross-town rival Ralston Valley. Marquez racked up 263 yards rushing on 31 carries as the No. 9-ranked Panthers (6-1, 3-0) took a 42-30 victory.
“We’ve got two great running backs, a great offensive line and two great tight ends,” Pomona coach Jay Madden said of the smash-mouth style running attack. “Ralston Valley has skilled kids. Every time we went sideways they made plays. The best way to handle it was go right at them.”
Marquez threw only one pass on the night that fell incomplete. He had much more success weaving through holes provided by Pomona’s massive offensive line. The 5-foot-5 senior had three touchdowns on the night as he went over the 1,300-yard mark on the ground this season.
“(Marquez) is what high school football is all about,” Madden said. “You don’t have to be 6-foot-5. You don’t have to be the fastest guy on the planet. You just have to be a kid with a huge heart and some pretty good God-given quickness. You can be a special player.”
The Panthers jumped out to a 28-0 lead, scoring on four of their first five possessions. Senior Lukas Russell scored his first of three touchdowns for Pomona late in the first half with a 15-yard score, making the score 21-0 at halftime.
After a 69-yard kickoff return to start the second half, Russell scored again on a 27-yard scamper to widen the lead to 28-0. He finished with 14 carries for 93 yards.
Fittingly, Marquez scored on a 27-yard touchdown run on his final carry of the night to cap off Pomona’s fifth-straight victory.
The victory marked a little revenge for the Panthers against their rival. Ralston Valley defeated Pomona in the regular season last year and also eliminated the Panthers in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs.
“I told my whole team to remember how it felt losing to Ralston Valley in the playoffs,” Marquez said. “We came out and executed.”
The Mustangs (4-3, 1-2) got their offense going in the second half. Senior quarterback Josh Knipp finished the night 30-for-45 passing for 353 yards and two touchdowns. Senior John Morales was Knipp’s favorite target catching 10 balls for 115 yards.
Despite the offensive outburst after halftime, Ralston Valley fell short on mounting a complete comeback.
“We’ve got to start earlier,” Knipp said. “We’ve got to start like we played in the second half.”
One positive for Ralston Valley was the return of junior running back Andrew Wingard. After missing the previous two games because of injury, Wingard was back on the field and had a solid night. He finished with 79 yards on the ground, including two rushing touchdowns. He also caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Knipp for the final score of the game.
“(Wingard) makes a ton of big plays for this offense,” Knipp said. “He kind of makes this offense tick. It’s great to have him back.”
Ralston Valley faces rival in Arvada West at 7 p.m. next Thursday, Oct. 17, at NAAC before closing out the regular season on the road against Legacy on Oct. 25.
Pomona has another critical conference game next week that will likely decide the 5A North Metro League title. The Panthers square off against No. 2 Fairview (6-0, 3-0) at 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18, at NAAC. The Knights are the lone undefeated team remaining in 5A.
“It will be fun,” Madden said of next week’s game against Fairview.