HIGHLANDS RANCH — In a dogfight, it’s not essential to take advantage of every opportunity. It’s important to take care of the right opportunity.
That’s what Class 5A No. 2 Valor Christian did Friday night in its 14-6 win over Pomona. The Eagles took advantage of the right opportunities, bending the strong-as-steel Pomona defense just enough to score two touchdowns and remain undefeated on the year.
“That was a dogfight,” Valor coach Ed McCaffrey said. “I thought our defense was playing well. We might’ve been a little conservative throughout the game, but we were trying to control the clock and control field position. But that team was tough. Coach Madden has them playing hard. They’re physical, they’re fast and they have playmakers.”
And the No. 3 Panthers (2-1 overall) showed their playmakers off early. Quarterback Colten Muller found wide receiver David Ross in the corner of the end zone to go up 6-0 on Valor.
The Eagles (3-0) responded when Pomona made its first mistake of the night and Chase Lopez slipped into the secondary uncovered. Luke McCaffrey’s pass hit Lopez in stride and Valor went up 7-6.
“My eyes lit up a little bit,” Luke said. “I threw it hoping someone wasn’t there to undercut it. Chase does a great job getting into cuts and getting into routes. It’s cool to see him on both sides of the ball just grinding each play.”
Lopez got was part of the impressive defensive showing for the Eagles. He started the second half by intercepted Muller on Pomona’s first drive.
But Valor couldn’t take advantage. That was the second time in the game the Eagles started a drive inside the Pomona 20 and came away with no points.
“They had a good game plan coming in,” Luke said. “Coach (Jay) Madden always does. When it comes down to it, we just have to execute on offense.”
The Eagles took a much more comfortable lead after they took advantage of the second mistake of the night by the Panthers. A Valor punt hit a Pomona and the Eagles came up with the turnover. McCaffrey then found Kaiden Keefe to make it a 14-6 game.
“You hate to waste a defensive effort like that,” Madden said. “Our offense is struggling. We’re turning the ball over. It’s okay to get stopped by a good defense, but you can’t just give them the ball.”
With the clock running out in the game, the Panthers had two chances to drive down and tie the game. They had 4th and 1 at the Valor three-yard line, but Theorius Robison couldn’t turn the corner to get the first down.
With less than 30 seconds left, they had a last-ditch effort to tie the game. A lateral went into the hands of Muller and he sprinted down the sideline, seemingly ready to give the fans a thrilling ending.
But Eli Miller had other plans for Valor. From the hashes on the opposite end of the field, he ran Muller down and tackled him inside the 10-yard line with no time left of the clock.
“I gotta get him,” Miller said. “That’s all I thought was I had to get him. That’s for my team. They did all the work and I have to finish it.”
And he did. The players rallied around him as they cleared the field and the even-keeled head coach of the Eagles showed finally showed emotion with the win in hand. Despite any situation during the game, he maintains that he’s in control and never worries.
“I don’t get nervous,” McCaffrey said. “I call plays based on the situation. I was confident in our players and they found a way to make plays when they had to.”
And that was the difference. They didn’t have to make every play. They just had to make the right ones.