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AURORA — Pomona is heading back to familiar territory.
The No. 4-seeded Panthers defeated No. 8 Grandview 42-20 on Nov. 25 at Legacy Stadium in the Class 5A football state semifinal. The victory punched Pomona’s ticket to a third straight trip to the championship game.
“With them (Grandview) just beating No. 1 Valor we knew they would come out firing,” said Pomona senior running back Max Borghi, who had 18 carries for 211 yards and three touchdowns (46, 19 and 56 yards) in the semifinal victory. “We did our jobs. We executed to get those big plays offensively and defensively.”
Pomona faces undefeated Eaglecrest in the title game at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, at Mile High Stadium. The Raptors (13-0 record) defeated Columbine in a 32-31 double-overtime game in the first 5A semifinal played at Legacy Stadium on Saturday.
“Eaglecrest is tough up front,” Pomona coach Jay Madden said looking ahead to the Raptors. “They showed that against Columbine. We are excited, but we have a lot of work to do.”
Pomona has one football state championship title in the school’s trophy case. The Panthers defeated Montbello 24-21 in the 4A title game in 1988. While that win was decades ago, Pomona has plenty of recent championship game experience.
Pomona were the 5A state runner-up the previous two seasons to Valor Christian.
The Panthers (11-2) enter the title game this year with an 8-game winning streak.
“I can’t tell you how much fire I have in my chest and our whole team,” Borghi said of Pomona getting another chance at that elusive 5A state championship trophy.
Big plays in the first half catapulted Pomona to a 21-0 lead against Grandview.
Pomona senior quarterback Ryan Marquez connected with junior David Ross for a 73-yard touchdown on the second play from scrimmage. Later in the first quarter, Marquez hooked up with junior Colten Muller for a 98-yard touchdown catch and run to give Pomona a 14-0 lead with 2:30 left in the first quarter.
“We are all playmakers,” said Marquez, who also gave a ton of credit to the Panthers’ offensive line to help Pomona put up 42 points on Grandview. “Colten and David made those plays tonight.”
Muller actually was Pomona’s quarterback for four games after Marquez broke his left arm. Marquez suffered the break in his non-throwing arm in Pomona’s conference opener Oct. 7.
Marquez returned for the playoffs and has been impressive. The senior was 19-for-29 for 549 yards and eight touchdowns through the air in blowout wins over Poudre and Fairview leading up to the semifinals. The three-year starting quarterback was 9-for-15 for 295 yards and the two touchdown passes against the Wolves.
“That is the kind of offense we have right now,” Madden said of the two big pass plays that went the distance in the first quarter. “We are an explosive team and we try to get our guys in space. I think our offensive line was the key tonight.”
The offensive line provided plenty of running room for Borghi. His 46-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter pushed the lead to 21-0. Borghi had another pair of touchdown runs called back because of penalties.
“Overall, this was one of our best games of the season,” said Borghi, who is nearly the 1,500-yard mark on the ground this season and averaging more than 10 yards per carry. “I feel like I had one of the best games I’ve ever had tonight.”
Borghi — a Washington State commit — tore his ACL in the state quarterfinals last season. The electric playmaker is making the most of his final prep postseason. Borghi had 30 carries for 427 yards and six touchdowns in wins over Poudre and Fairview.
Grandview did prevent getting shut out in the first half with a big run by senior quarterback Kyle Smith of 49 yards. Junior Jordan Billingsley scored on a short touchdown run to bring the score to 21-7 at halftime.
Billingsley ended with all three of the Wolves touchdowns. The stellar junior tailback finished the season with more than 1,800 yards on the ground and 21 touchdowns.
However, Saturday night belonged to the Panthers, who didn’t let up in the second half. Borghi scored on a 19-yard run on the Panthers’ opening drive of the second half to open up a 28-7 lead.
Borghi ran in his third touchdown run with 4:23 left in the third quarter to give Pomona a comfortable 35-7 lead. The icing on the cake for the Panthers was an interception senior Riley Welsch snagged in the fourth quarter and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown.
“Our offensive line and our defense was great,” Madden said. “With our offensive line and defense growing up and doing that tonight ... that’s what we need to win next week.”
Dennis Pleuss is a communications specialist with Jeffco Public Schools with a focus on athletics and activities. For more Jeffco coverage, go to CHSAANow.com/Jeffco.
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