It is not often that one of the biggest high school footballs games of the year is played so early in the season, but schedule-makers paired Pomona and Valor Christian Thursday at North Area Athletic Complex.
The reigning 5A state champions held off the Panthers’ best effort, as Valor beat Pomona 21-12 in a physical slugfest that the Eagles survived.
The powerhouse Panthers didn’t disappoint. Pomona pushed Valor to the brink, and if it wasn’t for a few self imposed mistakes the Panthers might have been able to steal a victory.
In a first half that featured two stout defenses Valor quarterback sophomore and son of Denver Broncos’ icon Ed McCaffery scored a rushing touchdown from 1-yard out in the first quarter for the first half’s only score.
But the back-and-forth physical brand of football delivered by both teams led to McCaffrey being knocked out of the game and replaced by senior Parker Courier.
Pomona finally got on the board in the third quarter after a long grind-out drive that was created after a Courier interception.
The Panthers marched down the field and sophomore Cameron Gonzales scored a 7-yard touchdown. However, that only made the score 7-6 after a missed Pomona extra point.
The Panthers were still on the prowl to try and knock off the state champions, going into the fourth quarter down just one point. However, that was before Courier and Valor went down the field two more times in the fourth quarter for two more touchdowns, to extending the lead to 21-6.
The Panthers would rally late in the game as senior quarterback Justin Roberts led Pomona on a scoring drive with just under four minutes left in the game. But Pomona failed to convert on the two-point conversion try, leaving the Panthers with no hope as they remained two scores away from catching the Eagles.
Pomona’s special teams’ mistakes, as well as an ill-advised interception came back to haunt the Panthers team who felt — and probably still do feel — like Valor’s equals.
This early season game that finished dramatically could be just a preview of a potential state championship game as both team are considered top five teams in the state (if not the two best teams in the state).
Pomona (0-1) has no time to mope. The Panthers will play Cherry Creek, another 5A state power, Friday at 7 p.m. at Stutler Bowl.
Valor improved to 2-0 with the first victory of the season coming at Bonneville, an Idaho team that was destroyed 61-20 during Week Zero. The Eagles also have a 25-game winning streak against Colorado opponents dating back to 2012.