ARVADA — There was no panic in the fourth quarter Friday night by Ralston Valley’s football team.
After leading the entire game against cross-town rival Pomona, ranked No. 3 in this week’s CHSAANow.com Class 5A football poll, the No. 4 Mustangs suddenly found themselves down 15-14 with 9:59 left in the fourth quarter when Pomona freshman Max Borghi kicked a 22-yard field goal.
In front of one of the biggest crowd at the North Area Athletic Complex’s 15-year history, Ralston Valley responded by marching down the field for an 11-play, 80-yard drive that was capped off with a 14-yard touchdown run by junior Kyle Rush.
“The crowd on both sides. It was a terrific football game. It’s always tight,” said Ralston Valley coach Matt Loyd, who had a 4-2 record against Pomona since the Mustangs moved up to 5A. “Both of us are definitely two of the top teams in the state. There is no doubt about it.”
A two-point conversion run by senior Andrew Wingard after Rush’s touchdown made the score 22-15 and the Mustangs held on to stay undefeated and pretty much win the 5A Jeffco League title.
“Nothing was said,” Wingard said about when the Mustangs’ game-winning drive. “Coach Loyd told us that the game would come down to the end and we just needed to do our stuff.”
Wingard (18 carries for 138 yards and a touchdown) and Rush (14 carries for 79 yards and two touchdowns) shouldered the load on the final drive with some help from senior Anthony Falbo. The bruising fullback had four carries for 22 yards, including a key 9-yard run on a fourth-and-one in Ralston Valley territory.
“We just needed not to make a mistake,” Loyd said. “We knew we could move the football. It showed good resiliency to come back and fight there.”
Rush’s second touchdown run of the night came with 4:46 left in the fourth quarter.
“I felt like the entire team knew the situation. It was now or never,” Rush said. “We had to get it done. We punched it in. It was awesome.”
Pomona was able to drive down to Ralston Valley’s 21-yard line in the final minute thanks to a couple of key pass plays from quarterback Justin Roberts to senior Isaac Marquez. However, Roberts’ fourth-down pass with less than 20 seconds to play sailed into the back of the end zone and Ralston Valley took over on downs.
“It was a great game,” Pomona coach Jay Madden admitted. “We just didn’t make enough plays and made too many mistakes in the first half that put us in a hole, but we’ll come back.”
Pomona fell behind 14-0 midway through the second quarter. Marquez had his first of two 1-yard touchdown runs late in the second quarter to get the Panthers on the scoreboard. Marquez also had 10 receptions for 98 yards for Pomona.
The Panthers scored 15 straight points to take the lead before Ralston Valley was able to put in their only score of the second half. Pomona freshman running back Max Borghi was impressive again filling in for sophomore Cameron Gonzales, who sat out his third straight game with an ankle injury.
Borghi had 17 carries for 108 yards.
Pomona (6-2, 5-1 in league) has its final tune-up prior to the start of the 32-team 5A state tournament at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 24, at NAAC against Chatfield.
Ralston Valley concludes its regular season against Mullen at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 23, at NAAC.
“This is a huge win,” Rush said of beating Pomona. “We try not to look forward to opponents, but winning tonight was important for all the players and coaches.”
The Mustangs (8-0, 6-0) have a chance now to go undefeated in the regular season and run the table in the tough Jeffco conference.
“It’s surreal. I never thought we would be undefeated,” Wingard said. “This team has proven me wrong. I’ve proven myself wrong. Being undefeated is a great thing.”