DENVER — Pomona and Eaglecrest put on an offensive show of historic proportion in the Class 5A football state championship game Saturday at Mile High Stadium.
When the dust settled, Pomona came away with its first state football title since 1988 with a 56-49 victory over Eaglecrest in the highest scoring 5A state football title game in history.
"We've worked so dang hard to build this program," said Pomona coach Jay Madden, who is in his 15th year at Pomona. "We've been so close so many times. To finally get one and see that (players celebrating with fans) is what it's all about."
It’s the second football state championship for Pomona. It was the fourth trip to the 5A state title game as a coach for Madden, also a Pomona graduate.
Pomona’s pervious three trips to Mile High were in 2009, 2015 and 2016. Two of the three losses were heartbreaking 3-point losses to Mullen in 2009 and Valor Christian in 2015.
"I can't explain it. There isn't able better way to go out," Pomona senior running back Max Borghi said. "Coming here a third time and finally getting it. It's the best feeling ever. Everyone at Pomona has been apart of this."
While there were plenty of offensive numbers, Borghi and Eaglecrest running back Kenny Wanting were nearly unstoppable. Borghi finished with 31 carries for 247 yards and three touchdowns. Kenny Wanting was just as impressive with 27 carries for 210 yards and three touchdowns.
Borghi stood helplessly on the sideline of the 5A football state championship game a year ago with a torn ACL.
The Washington State University-commit took full advantage of the Panthers getting back to Mile High Stadium for a third straight shot at the 5A state title. He also overcame fumbling the ball twice in the first half against Eaglecrest.
"He (Borghi) was just trying to hard," Madden said of Borghi's two fumbles. "He was trying to put the game away instead of just playing one play at a time."
Borghi came in averaging more than 10 yards per carry and went over the 1,500 yard mark, despite not really getting up to full speed after having knee surgery last fall.
"You just have to forget about it," Borghi said of his fumble near the goal line and fumble on a kickoff in the second quarter that led to Eaglecrest grabbing a 35-28 lead. "The second half I didn't think about it. I just came out and did my job. I thought about what I had to do."
Eaglecrest’s defense came in giving up just 12 points per game. However, the Raptors hadn’t seen the type of explosive offense Pomona (12-2 record) has put together. The Panthers averaged nearly 45 points per game with a balanced passing attack orchestrated by senior and three-year starting quarterback Ryan Marquez.
Marquez connected for his fifth touchdown pass of the game with 6:25 left in the fourth quarter to give the Panthers a 56-42 lead. Junior Billy Pospisil was on the receiving end for the key touchdown. It was Pospisil's third touchdown of the game.
"Billy is one of the best players in the state," said Marquez, who finished 20-for-22 for 345 yards and the five touchdowns. "When plays need to be played he makes them. He played a hell of a game today. I'm so proud of him."
Pomona ended up putting up 683 yards of total offense.
"I didn't think that would happen honestly," Pospisil said of his 9 catches for 187 yards and three scores. "We just came out here trying to execute. Thankfully that was a big part of the plan."
Pomona's biggest defensive play came with senior defensive back Kenny Maes intercepting Eaglecrest quarterback Jalen Mergerson in the fourth quarter to get a rare defensive stop.
"It was a relief when Kenny picked that off," Pomona senior defensive end Tanner Kimminau said. "I love that kid."
Maes actually was the Panthers' starting running back last year in the state title game with Borghi and then senior Cameron Gonzales both sidelined with injuries.
Even after the interception, Eaglecrest scored with 1:11 remaining on a run by Mergerson to make it a 1-score game. The senior signal-caller finished 11-for-17 passing for 279 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but it wasn't enough.
The Raptors couldn't recover the onside kick. Pomona ran out the clock to win.
"Everyone rallied and we settled down at halftime," Pospisil said of recovering after Eaglecrest's 35-point second quarter. "We knew if we played mistake-free football in the second half we would win the game."
Eaglecrest’s lone football state title came in 1993. Coach Mike Schmitt has led the Raptors to a 24-2 recored over the past two seasons. Eaglecrest lost to Regis Jesuit in the state quarterfinals last season that ended an undefeated season for the Raptors.