No. 4 Pomona football builds an early lead, runs away in win against Mullen

ARVADA — Pomona linebacker Juju Howard had a late birthday celebration Thursday night at the North Area Athletic Complex.

Howard picked up a loose football off a bad snap on Mullen’s 25-yard line midway through the second quarter. The senior returned it for a touchdown, his first score of his prep career.

A day after his 18th birthday, Pomona senior Juju Howard could celebrate his fumble return for a touchdown in the second quarter against Mullen. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“I saw Deion (Maes) get the pressure. I thought he had the ball, but then I saw it pop out,” Howard said of the touchdown that extended Pomona’s lead to 35-0 over the Mustangs. “The first thing I thought was ‘scoop and score’ so that’s what I did.”

Howard had his 18th birthday the day before and was able to celebrate again as the No. 4-ranked Pomona Panthers improved to 5-0 on the season with a dominating 42-21 victory.

Pomona wasted no time in getting up on Mullen (1-3, 1-3 in Class 5A Jeffco). Pomona senior Jack Pospisil returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown.

“We really didn’t practice kick returns because they were kicking it in the end zone every time this year,” Pomona coach Jay Madden said. “I knew as soon as Jack caught it he was going. Every time he gets it on kick returns he seems to score.”

It took 16 seconds for Pospisil race past Mullen’s sideline and into the end zone.

“I was expecting it to go (into the end zone). I was glad it didn’t for once,” Pospisil said of the opening kickoff. “It was a great kickstart for the team and really got us going.”

Pomona was a bit sluggish in a 33-14 victory last Saturday afternoon against rival Arvada West. The Panthers were clicking Thursday night scoring touchdowns on four straight offensive positions, along with the defensive score by Howard.

Pomona senior Ben Cruz (24) tries to break out of a tackle during the Panthers' 42-21 victory over Mullen on Thursday night. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“I think we called better plays and the kids did a better job executing those plays,” Madden said of the offense looking better than it did against A-West. “We didn’t try to do too much individually on plays. They beat Arvada West so I think that got our kids’ attention a little bit more.”

Pospisil scored on a 23-yard touchdown run from his quarterback position. Senior Ian Dexter found the end zone late in the first quarter to push the Panthers’ lead to 21-0.

Dexter had a 1-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter and senior AJ Zamora extended the lead to 42-0 minutes left before halftime to induce the running clock.

“The offensive line had a great week of practice,” Pospisil said. “They did a great job opening up so many holes for us. They are the whole key for us.”

Mullen got a trio of touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Blake Palladino in the second half going up against Pomona’s backups.

“We are playing out of our minds this year,” Howard said of Pomona’s defense. “We had our struggles last year. These year we’ve cleaned it up. Everyone is playing together and we are communicating well.”

Pomona is scheduled to face No. 3 Columbine (4-0, 3-0) next week in a regular-season finale. The game will be played 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13, at Jeffco Stadium.

“We are just excited to go play another football game,” Madden said of the scheduled showdown with Columbine. “The fact that it’s Columbine makes it that much more special.”

The Rebels weren’t able to play its scheduled game this week against No. 8 Ralston Valley because of a COVID related issue. With only eight teams making the 5A state playoff field this season makes every game critical.

“Ever since the season started we talked about 6-0,” Pospisil said. “The playoffs are going to be slim. You have to win when you can. We are on a roll right now and super happy with where we are at.”

Mullen hosts Lakewood (1-4, 1-3) on Friday, Nov. 13, in another 5A Jeffco League regular-season finale. The Tigers pulled off a 14-7 victory over A-West on Thursday night at Jeffco Stadium.

Pomona senior Juju Howard (41) tackles Mullen sophomore quarterback Hunter Lay (10) for a loss during the first quarter Thursday night at NAAC. The Panthers' defense held get Pomona out to a 42-0 lead at halftime. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)