No. 4 Pomona football back on track with win over Highlands Ranch

ARVADA — Pomona coach Jay Madden doesn’t have an issue with two-game losing streaks, but he was relieved when the Panthers’ didn’t drop a third straight Thursday night.

“We schedule these hard games to try to find out something about yourself, but you have to learn from those mistakes,” Madden said after Pomona’s 42-14 victory at the North Area Athletic Complex against Highlands Ranch. “We learned from those two games. We came out tonight and played really well.”

Highlands Ranch quarterback Jake Rubley (2) drops back to pass Thursday night at NAAC. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

Pomona, No. 4 in the Class 5A football rankings, suffered back-to-back losses to No. 2 Valor Christian and No. 1 Cherry Creek the previous two weeks. The Panthers actually suffered back-to-back losses last season on the road to their Class 5A state championship title.

Highlands Ranch took an early 7-0 lead with an opening 13-play, 75-yard scoring drive that was capped off by an 11-yard touchdown run by junior Kole Lundquist.

“We started off slow. We had to adjust some things,” Pomona senior linebacker Javier Crespin said. “We came back, found a groove and played well.”

The Panthers’ defense didn’t allow the Falcons to score on their next seven possessions. On the other side, Pomona’s offense scored at will. The Panthers scored 42 unanswered points from late in the first quarter until early in the fourth quarter. The Panthers’ offense scored on their first four consecutive drives.

“Our goal is to move the ball every single series,” Madden said. “We want to give our defense rest and get the other team’s defense tired. We let our skilled guys do what they do.”

Pomona senior quarterback Riley Welsch hooked up with senior Billy Pospisil on an 8-yard touchdown pass to tie things up 7-7 before the end of the first quarter. Welsch connected with senior David Ross on touchdowns of 23 and 36 yards, along with a short touchdown run by senior Dominic Bettini put the Panthers up 28-7 at halftime.

Pomona senior Javier Crespin (44) knocks down a pass from Highlands Ranch sophomore Jake Rubley. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“The offense was rolling,” Crespin said. “We just try to get the ball back to them anyway we can.”

Pospisil opened the second half with a bang. It took the senior 16 seconds to return the opening second-half kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown to extend the lead to 35-7.

Bettini, a move-in transfer from Highlands Ranch to Pomona, scored his second touchdown run against his former school toward the end of the third quarter to put the lead to 42-7.

“It was really hard leaving,” said Bettini, who was greeted and talked with several Falcon players on the field after the Panthers’ win. “My ,om got a new job down here (in the Pomona area). It was hard to transition.”

Bettini rushed for over 1,600 yards last season for the Falcons.

“It’s something awesome to be in this offense,” Bettini said. “I watched them last year in the state game. It’s so awesome to be out there with them and be a part of this Panther community now.”

Madden has a solid one-two punch at running back with Bettini and senior Therious Robison moving into the second half of the regular season.

“I’m happy for him (Bettini). He had a good week of practice,” Madden said. “He got a little banged up in Florida, so last week was really the first time he had that burst of speed again. You could see it tonight and we need that.”

Pomona gets in conference play going in the 5A Metro West against Lakewood at 7 p.m. Sept. 28 back at the NAAC.

“It’s onto the real business,” Madden said of starting league play.

The Falcons (1-4 record) has also played a brutal non-league schedule. Highlands Ranch was preseason No. 10, but suffered losses to Eaglecrest, Grandview, Columbine and Pomona — all teams ranked in the top-7.

Highlands Ranch begins its 5A Metro South League play next Friday night against Rock Canyon.

Pomona coach Jay Madden will lead his Panthers into conference play in the deep Class 5A Metro West League next week. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)