ARVADA — The chin straps needed to be buckled down as tight as possible Thursday night at the North Area Athletic Complex.
Valor Christian, top-ranked in the CHSAANow.com Class 5A football poll, went toe-to-toe with No. 4 Pomona in one of the most anticipated 5A non-league games this season. The game lived up to the hype with Valor coming out on top with a 21-12 victory.
“We were really expecting a huge physical game. Pomona showed up, I’m not going to lie,” Valor senior linebacker Bubba Watkins said. “It was what we expected, but we answered the call and came out with a win.”
Points weren’t as easy to come by for the Eagles (2-0) as their 61-20 victory in Zero Week over Bonneville, Idaho. Sophomore quarterback Dylan McCaffrey scored on a 1-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter to get Valor on the scoreboard, but it would be the last play of the game for McCaffrey.
Senior Parker Courier played the rest of the way at quarterback for Valor after McCaffrey took a handful of early hard hits.
“I think he (McCaffrey) will be fine. It was one of those where we care so much about his long-term future and safety there was no reason to risk anything,” Valor coach Rod Sherman said of McCaffrey’s condition. “Certainly we’re hopeful he’ll be back as soon as possible. He is a great football player for us.”
Courier engineered a 71-yard scoring drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by junior Tanner Tadra to give the Eagles a 14-6 lead. It answered Pomona’s first score of the game, a 7-yard touchdown run by sophomore Cameron Gonzales where the running back muscled through several defenders for the touchdown in the third quarter.
Midway through the fourth quarter Valor extended its lead to 21-6 off a 6-yard touchdown pass from Courier to junior Ben Waters. Courier finished the game 9-for-14 passing for 97 yards and a touchdown.
“Parker is a great quarterback. If Dylan weren’t here he would be in a starting position anyways,” Watkins said. “They are both great quarterbacks. It was really awesome to see Parker step up and make those plays.”
Pomona made some plays of its own in the fourth quarter offensively. Senior quarterback Justin Roberts ended an 80-yard scoring drive with 3:38 left in the game with an 18-yard touchdown pass to senior Ryan Ward on a fourth-down play. However, a failed 2-point conversion pretty much end the Panthers’ hopes of ending Valor’s winning streak against Colorado schools.
Not only has the Eagles won five state championship titles over the previous five seasons, but they also have an impressive 25-game winning streak going against in-state teams. Valor’s last loss to a Colorado was back in August 2012. The Eagles lost to Mullen in their season opener.
“I thought we fought and fought and fought,” Pomona coach Jay Madden said. “We just ran out of gas a little bit. We have some big guys going both ways. We are going to have to figure that out a little bit to give them a rest.”
Senior Isaac Marquez had a solid game on both sides of the football for Pomona. As a receiver he had seven catches for 65 yards. Marquez also had an interception and fumble recovery from his defensive back spot.
“He (Marquez) will always play both ways. He is a stud. He had a good night,” Madden said. “We had a lot of guys have good nights.”
Pomona continues its tough schedule on the road next Friday night against No. 2 Cherry Creek. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Stutler Bowl. The Panthers begin their 5A Jeffco schedule against Mullen at 7 p.m. Sept. 11 back at NAAC.
“This is just one step in our journey to see what happens this year,” Madden said. “We’ll be alright.”
Valor will host East High School out of Salt Lake City, Utah at 7 p.m. next Friday. The Eagles have one more contest with an out-of-state school before beginning their Centennial League schedule with Overland on Sept. 26.