Pomona football hits its stride in playoff win over Legend

ARVADA — Pomona offense came alive in the second quarter Friday night at the North Area Athletic Complex.

No. 12-seed Legend held a 7-0 lead on No. 5 Pomona in the second round of the Class 5A football playoff game, but the Panthers proceeded to score 36 unanswered points on the way to a 36-7 victory.

Pomona junior Brady Ritzmann (15) tries to escape Legend senior Cameron Smith during the second-round playoff game Friday night. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“We just need to start games like that and finish games like that,” Pomona senior linebacker Sanjay Strickland said. “We need to play smash-mouth football.”

Pomona (7-4 record) had a 21-point second quarter to take a 21-7 lead at halftime. Senior Chase Lopez had a pair of short touchdown runs from the Wildcat formation. Junior Jack Pospisil snagged a crossing route pass from quarterback Brady Ritzmann and raced into the end zone for a 38-yard touchdown.

Pomona starting running back Dominick Nichols was sidelined early due to injury to put the offensive load on Lopez, Pospisil and junior Ben Cruz.

“We are dropping like flies. We are really beat up,” Pomona coach Jay Madden said of the Panthers’ injuries. “We have to find a way to piece it together.”

The Panthers’ stellar defense got into the scoring action with a safety by Strickland in the third quarter.

“Our front seven is still really, really good,” Madden said of the Panthers’ defense. “We’ll have to rely on them. Get pressure on the quarterback and hope our defensive backs can hold up.”

Pomona senior Sanjay Strickland (25) celebrates a sack with junior Connor Walklett (88) during the first half Friday at the NAAC. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

Pomona’s offense cashed in the ensuing free kick with a drive dominated by Cruz. The junior had seven carries for 38 yards, finishing off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to make the score 30-7 midway through the third quarter.

“I feel healthy,” said Cruz, who has battled injuries himself this season. “It feels great to be back running the ball. Everything feels great.”

Pomona junior AJ Zamora closed out the scoring a 15-yard touchdown run after the Panthers’ defense held Legend on a fourth-down play.

Pomona will be on the road in the state quarterfinals against the winner of No. 13 Highlands Ranch and No. 4 Regis Jesuit next week. The Falcons and Raiders had a 7 p.m. kickoff Friday night.

There isn’t a question which 5A team had the toughest schedule during the regular season. Pomona played the No. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 seeded teams — Cherry Creek, Ralston Valley, Valor Christian, Regis Jesuit and Columbine.

“We just need to be us, play football and play smart,” Strickland said.

The Panthers closed out their regular season winning five of six, but losing to rival Ralston Valley two weeks ago before entering the postseason. It was a tough 17-0 shutout loss against the Mustangs in what determined the 5A Metro West League champion.

Pomona will be without Lopez for the state quarterfinal game. Lopez received an unsportsmanlike penalty and ejected from the game with 7:09 left in the fourth quarter. A 1-game suspension comes with the ejection.

“I definitely need to step up,” Cruz said moving forward into the playoffs.

Pomona junior Jack Pospisil races into the end zone on a 38-yard touchdown catch during the Panthers' 21-point second quarter against Legend on Friday night at the North Area Athletic Complex. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)