LAKEWOOD – On a night where offense was the name of the game, it was somewhat ironic that a defensive play made the biggest impact.
With No. 2 Columbine and fifth-ranked Pomona all knotted up late in the fourth quarter, Rebels junior Mikey Griebel turned the tide for good. Griebel's interception set up the final touchdown of the night, an 8-yard Jake Lowry quarterback keeper, sending Columbine to a hard-fought 42-35 victory Friday at Jeffco Stadium in Lakewood.
With top-ranked Cherry Creek falling to Grandview, the Rebels (7-0, 5-0 in Class 5A Jeffco League play) will likely ascend to the No. 1 spot next week. Only two weeks remain in the regular season.
"That was a playoff-atmosphere game, I think," Griebel said. "That's definitely going to get us ready. We've got two more important games – we're going to throw away our record right now."
Friday night's affair featured a combined 11 touchdowns and 957 yards of total offense. Griebel rushed for 225 yards and had touchdown runs of 47, 78 and 44 yards, and he also caught three passes for 41 yards and another score. But it was his interception – along with a forced fumble in the red zone in the first half – that helped secure the victory.
"He's a playmaker, both sides of the ball," Lowry said. "He made some great plays tonight."
Pomona (4-3, 3-2) pretty much moved the ball at will until the fourth quarter, when the team was unable to score on three possessions. Sophomore quarterback Ryan Marquez was 16-of-21 for 252 yards and a touchdown and junior Cameron Gonzales rushed for 130 yards and three scores.
The teams combined for three touchdowns in the final two minutes of the third quarter, but Columbine reclaimed the momentum with one big play. After Pomona took a 35-28 lead on a Gonzales 3-yard touchdown run with 4.1 seconds remaining, the Rebels got the ball back on their own 20-yard line. Instead of playing it safe, Lowry found tight end Jon Cole open over the middle, and the 6-foot-3, 230-pound senior did the rest for an 80-yard touchdown pass.
"We saw no one was in the middle of the field, and if I just made that good fake on the linebacker, I knew Jonny would catch it," Lowry said. "He's gotten a lot faster so he outran the defense."
The teams traded punts to start the fourth quarter – the only punts of the game. Back-to-back penalties had the Panthers moving in the wrong direction on their second possession when Griebel stepped in front of a receiver and picked off a Marquez pass.
He returned the ball to the Pomona 29, and five plays later Lowry scored the deciding touchdown.
"It was the end of the game and we had to come up with something big," Griebel said. "I owed my team, especially getting burned (earlier). I owed them that."
Pomona’s final drive ended when the Rebels stopped Gonzales a yard short on fourth down near midfield.
Griebel also made an impact on defense in the first half during a wild series that saw the two teams fumble the ball away on four consecutive possessions – including three turnovers in six plays. Pomona turned it over at the Rebels' 5-yard line twice, with the second coming after Griebel stripped the ball away.
"We came in knowing this was going to be a fight," Griebel said. "We knew we had to strap on the gloves pretty tight and that's what we did. That's a good team we just played."
Columbine rushed for 326 yards on the night. Lowry had a combined 210 yards through the air and on the ground.