LAKEWOOD — There will not be a fourth straight Class 5A football state championship appearance for the Pomona Panthers. Pomona enjoyed a pair of state runner-up finishes in 2015 and 2016 before the …
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LAKEWOOD — There will not be a fourth straight Class 5A football state championship appearance for the Pomona Panthers.
Pomona enjoyed a pair of state runner-up finishes in 2015 and 2016 before the team won the 5A state championship last season against Eaglecrest, but the Panthers’ season ended in the state quarterfinals Nov. 16 at Jeffco Stadium.
The No. 2-seeded Columbine hadn’t beat Pomona in a decade in a postseason game, but that string ended with the Rebels staying undefeated with a 41-14 victory over No. 7 and the defending Class 5A state champion Panthers.
“It has been a lot of fun,” Pomona coach Jay Madden said reflecting on the four-year run by his Panthers. “We’ve had some great, great kids and also a lot of kids who just played hard.”
Columbine (12-0 record) was simply too much for Pomona (7-5) to handle this time around. The Panthers were hit hard this season by injuries, but Madden didn’t make that an excuse.
“The injuries and a great football team,” Madden said of what the Panthers faced in the quarterfinals. “Let’s be honest, I don’t care if all our guys were playing, that is one hell of a football team. We would have had to play a great game with all our dudes. Let’s give Columbine credit.”
Pomona had lost its all-time career leading receiver Billy Pospisil to shoulder surgery a month ago and leading tackler — junior linebacker Kyle Moretti — suffered a broken ankle in practice before the Panthers’ playoff opener against Arvada West. There was a handful of other starters that missed games this season for Pomona.
The Rebels came in healthy and hungry to end the playoff drought against Pomona.
“I wasn’t counting, but thank you and it feels incredible,” said Columbine coach Andy Lowry who has guided the Rebels to five state championships during his tenure at Columbine.
The state quarterfinal win ended a four-game playoff winning streak by Pomona over Columbine. The Panthers took postseason wins against the Rebels in 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2012. The last time Columbine had a playoff win over Pomona was 2008.
“I put that all aside,” Columbine senior quarterback Logan DeArment said of facing the playoff losing streak against Pomona. “I believe in our guys. We have a special thing going on here and that is a great football team we beat tonight.”
Columbine moved on the state semifinals where Jeffco's last competing team was beaten 10-7 by No. 3 Cherry Creek on Nov. 23. The Bruins had previously defeated Ralston Valley 24-16 at Stutler Bowl on Nov. 16.
The Rebels’ defense came up huge with four big turnovers in the game against Pomona. Columbine converted the four of turnovers into 24 points.
“Defense saved us,” Lowry said. “Offensively we sputtered a lot tonight. (Pomona) is tough. They are the defending state champs and have been in the last three state championship games. Jay (Madden) and his staff do an incredible job.”
Pomona did take an early 7-0 lead with an impressive six-play, 80-yard drive that was capped off by a 14-yard touchdown run by Pomona senior quarterback Riley Welsch.
However, Columbine responded with 20 unanswered point for the rest of the first half to take a 20-7 lead at halftime.
The big touchdown for the Rebels came on the first of three touchdown runs by Harrington right before halftime. Columbine junior Tanner Hollens intercepted Welsch to set up the Rebels on Pomona’s 21-yard line.
“I just saw the ball thrown and tried to close as fast as I could,” said DeArment, who came up from his safety position to hit Pomona receiver David Ross right when a high pass got to him. “I hit him (Ross) right as the ball got to him and we got lucky to get the pick.”
Harrington scored with 1:20 left before halftime to extend the Rebels’ lead to 20-7. The junior running back now leads the team with 17 rushing touchdowns on the season.
“It feels great,” Harrington said of his three touchdown runs. “When you cross that line nothing feels better when you see the ref put his arms up. I just wanted to help the team as best as I could.”
Pomona got back into it with a 9-yard touchdown pass from Welsch to senior Therious Robison to open the third quarter and cut the Rebels’ lead to 20-14.
Columbine got back on track converting a touchdowns on a Pomona fumble, a turnover on downs and an interception by DeArment for 21 unanswered points to close out the game.
“We made a lot of mistakes tonight and you can’t beat a great football team if you turn the football over,” Madden said.
Dennis Pleuss is a communications specialist for Jeffco Public Schools with a focus on athletics and activities. For more Jeffco coverage, go to CHSAANow.com/Jeffco.
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