ARVADA — Ralston Valley ended its drought against rival Pomona on the football field Friday night at the North Area Athletic Complex.
The Mustangs, ranked No. 8 in the final CHSAANow.com Class 5A football poll of the season, scored their biggest victory of the season. Ralston Valley defeated No. 6 Pomona 38-26 in what turned out to be a wild second-half in the regular-season finale for both state title contenders.
“Arvada City Champions, it feels good to say that. It’s been awhile,” said Ralston Valley junior Chase Wilson about the Mustangs’ first win over Pomona since 2014.
It looked like it might be a rout when Wilson scored on an 88-yard touchdown run with 36.5 seconds left before halftime to give Ralston Valley a 28-6 lead at halftime.
“We talked about it in practice this week. We knew it was going to be there,” Wilson said of his 88-yard touchdown run right before halftime. “All the credit to the offensive line and my buddy Brad (Roberts) for getting that window block. I just bounced it outside and tried not to run out of gas.”
The Mustangs (8-2, 4-1 in 5A Metro West League) dominated the first half capitalizing on a pair of Pomona turnovers and also scoring off a fake punt that went for a 65-yard touchdown pass from senior Thomas Harries to junior Kaleb Tischler.
However, the Panthers (6-4, 3-2) played like the defending 5A state champions that they are in the second half.
A second touchdown catch of the night by senior David Ross from quarterback Riley Welsch, along with a 20-yard touchdown run by sophomore Ben Cruz in the third quarter cut the Mustangs’ lead to 31-20.
It really got interesting when junior linebacker Kyle Moretti intercepted Ralston Valley quarterback Walker Brickle early in the fourth quarter. Moretti returned it 11 yards for a touchdown to make the score 31-26 with 11:09 left in the final quarter.
Pomona eventually got the ball back with a chance to take the lead, but senior defensive lineman Isaac Townsend recovered a fumble.
“We are the type of defense that just grinds every time we go out there,” Townsend said. “We are just about grinding, that’s it.”
The Mustangs’ cashed in Pomona’s fourth turnover of the game with an eventual 1-yard touchdown run by Brickle to pretty much seal the victory.
“We still have a ton of things to work on as a team, but it’s huge for us,” Wilson said. “We are all excited. We are all going to celebrate tonight and get back to work tomorrow morning.”
No. 1 Columbine (10-0, 5-0) had already wrapped up the 5A Metro West League title, but Friday’s game was key when it came to seeding for the state tournament that begins next week.
It’s now a waiting game for Pomona and Ralston Valley until the 24-team 5A state bracket is released on CHSAANow.com on Sunday. The top-8 seeds will receive first-round byes. The rest of the field — seeds 9 through 24 — will play first-round game next week. Ralston Valley coach Matt Loyd is pretty confident his team with get a top-8 seed.
“After losses to two undefeated teams (Columbine and 4A’s Loveland) and playing in a league where everyone made the playoffs last year, there is no way we can’t have a bye,” Loyd said.
Over the last seven years, the head-to-head meeting between Ralston Valley and Pomona is now even at 4-4. However, the Panthers had won the previous three meetings coming into Friday’s game. The only postseason head-to-head battle came in 2012 when the Mustangs moved into the 5A state semifinals with a victory over Pomona.
“It’s a good win. It’s a good way to start off the playoffs,” Townsend said. “We don’t look over anybody. You’ve got to play to the end. Championship teams play all four quarters.”