DENVER — The prep football spotlight was firmly focused at de La Salle Stadium on Friday night and Pomona shined brightest in the end.
With the pressure at its peak in a 21-21 tie in the fourth quarter between the 2015 Class 5A state runner-up Pomona, ranked No. 2 in the CHSAANow.com preseason poll, on the road against No. 3 ranked Mullen, the visiting Panthers atoned for an overtime loss to the Mustangs a year ago.
Junior quarterback Ryan Marquez connected with senior Uriah Vigil for a 16-yard touchdown with 26.6 seconds left in regulation to give Pomona a 28-21 victory in a monster Zero Week showdown.
“It’s awesome. It’s huge. No. 2 going up against No. 3 in the rankings,” Pomona senior defensive lineman Brandon Micale said. “It’s an amazing win.”
Marquez engineered the 12-play, 59-yard game-winning drive in the final five minutes after Pomona’s defense gave the offense great field position sacking Mullen sophomore quarterback Dominic Depizzol to force the Mustangs to punt from their own 7-yard line.
Pomona had a trio of third-down conversions as the running back tandem of senior Cameron Gonzales and junior Max Borghi carried the load on the final offensive drive for the Panthers. Marquez connected with senior Miles Matulik for a pair of key 8-yard gains on the drive before the touchdown pass to Vigil.
“Obviously we were on that last drive, but what really got us going was Billy Pospisil catching that screen on the drive before,” said Marquez, who finished 18-for-30 passing for 233 yards and three touchdowns.
Pospisil, only a sophomore, had a huge 48-yard catch and run that set up the game-tying touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. The sophomore had a big role catching 8 passes for 74 yards and a touchdown.
“Billy had a great night. For a sophomore to come in and do that is unbelievable,” Pomona coach Jay Madden said. “He made some great plays. He might have to play some defense next week with Jeremy Gonzales being banged up.”
After catching four passes for 57 yards and a touchdown in the second quarter, Pomona receiver/cornerback Jeremy Gonzales went down with a hip injury and didn’t return.
Borghi showed off his dynamic skills with 81 yards rushing and 70 yards receiving. Cameron Gonzales had just 37 yards rushing, but had the key 1-yard touchdown run that tied the game in the fourth quarter and ended 21 unanswered points from Mullen.
“Our offensive is dangerous this year. We are very versatile,” Marquez said. “It’s going to be a great year.”
The Panthers got out to a 14-0 lead in the second quarter with touchdown passes from Marquez to senior Jeremy Gonzales and Pospisil, but Mullen scored just before halftime on a five-yard touchdown run by senior Marcus McElroy.
McElroy finished with 22 carries for 83 yards and two touchdowns, but he was limited to just one carry in the fourth quarter.
“We just had to make (McElroy) work for it,” Madden said. “We couldn’t make it easy for him and we didn’t.”
Pomona packs its bags for an out-of-state test in Florida next week. The Panthers take on Glynn Academy from Georgia on Thursday, Sept. 1. Mullen keeps the trend going of hosting 5A powerhouses. The Mustangs faced defending 5A state champion Valor Christian on Friday, Sept. 2.
“When you play as tough a schedule as we play every win is precious.” Madden said. “To come out here against a great football team with some extremely good athletes and find a way to win is our job.”