Pomona football runs into 5A state semifinals with win over Eaglecrest

HIGHLANDS RANCH — Pomona was scoring rushing touchdowns like it was going out of style Friday night in its Class 5A state quarterfinal match-up against Eaglecrest.

Dominick Nichols, Ben Cruz, Jack Pospisil, AJ Zamora and Ian Dexter all scored touchdowns on the ground for the Panthers in a dominating performance. Pomona’s six rushing scores allowed the Panthers to walk out to Valor Christian Stadium with an impressive 49-19 victory in the postseason opener.

More photos from the game. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“We have five or six of the greatest running backs any team has ever had and they all have different things they are good at,” Pomona coach Jay Madden said of his riches at running back. “They do everything for us.”

Nichols had a pair of rushing touchdowns, an interception on defense, along with a huge 27-yard touchdown catch with under a minute to play in the first half that gave No. 4-seeded Pomona a 21-13 lead at halftime. It was just the second touchdown pass of the season for senior quarterback Jack Pospisil, who was celebrating his 18th birthday.

“That was huge,” Nichols said of his touchdown catch. “I saw #13 (Riley Lovato Mueller) guarding me and I felt like I had the speed advantage on him. I told Coach Madden to bring it to me.”

No. 5 Eaglecrest (5-2 record) actually held a 13-7 lead after a remarkable 39-yard touchdown catch by senior Seyi Oladipo with 8:14 left in the second quarter. Pomona’s defense was able to buckle down and the Panthers’ offense ran wild with 35 unanswered points.

“We knew it could be a roller coast ride,” Madden said. “As soon as we got used to their speed and got some pressure on the quarterback we were OK. Our offense let our defense relax because they knew we were going to score points.”

Pomona (7-0) got touchdown runs from Pospisil and Nichols in the third quarter to really take control of the game. Zamora found the end zone early in the fourth quarter to extend the lead to 42-13.

“We’ve got a lot of good running backs and we try to spread it around because teams can’t stop most of us,” Zamora said. “Our offensive line is getting stronger and stronger. We are looking super good.”

More photos from the game. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

Dexter scored on a 6-yard run to finish the scoring.

“We came into the week knowing they would key on Jack,” Nichols said. “The running backs knew we had to come out and execute plays.”

Next up for Pomona is defending state champion Cherry Creek (7-0). The top-seeded Bruins defeated No. 8 Regis Jesuit 29-6 in another state quarterfinal game held Friday night.

The Panthers and Bruins will play next week in the semifinals at Stutler Bowl.

“We have been an underdog ever since Max Borghi left,” Zamora said. “We made it to the state semifinals last year and we weren’t even supposed to be in the playoffs. I’ve fine with the underdog role. All we are going to do is prove people wrong.”

The last meeting between Eaglecrest and Pomona was one of the most memorable 5A state championships games on record that featured Borghi, current running back at Washington State University. The Panthers took a 56-49 victory over the Raptors in the 5A title game on Dec. 2, 2017.

The Panthers produced on of the most impressive offensive performances ever in the largest classification state title game. Pomona quarterback Ryan Marquez passed for nearly 350 yards and five touchdowns. Borghi has almost 250 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Billy Pospisil, Jack’s older brother, had 189 yards receiving and three scores.

Pomona is the torch barrier for the historically strong 5A Jeffco League during this condensed state tournament because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Columbine (5-1) and Ralston Valley (5-2) — both suffered 3-point losses to Pomona during the regular season — were just on the outside of the Top-8 of the CHSAA Seeding Index that determined the 8-team field.

“We wanted to show everyone that Jeffco has a great league,” Madden said. “In a normal year those two (Columbine and Ralston Valley) would be in for sure. It’s just too bad it didn’t work out that way.”

More photos from the game. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)