ARVADA — Pomona has gone from underdog to top dog in the Class 5A Jeffco League over the span of the last three weeks. The unranked Panthers started with a 2-3 record out of the gates, but have …
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ARVADA — Pomona has gone from underdog to top dog in the Class 5A Jeffco League over the span of the last three weeks.
The unranked Panthers started with a 2-3 record out of the gates, but have climbed to the top of the deepest conference in 5A with three straight league victories. The latest came Friday night with a dominating second-half performance against No. 6-ranked Arvada West.
“Coming off a big win last week against our other cross-town rival I and my staff made it very clear to our kids that this is as big of a game,” Pomona coach Nathan Johnson said after the Panthers’ 42-14 victory. “We could not have a letdown. I knew in practice we set that tone. They were dialed in and ready to go tonight.”
Pomona (5-3, 3-0 in league) scored 28 unanswered points starting with an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by senior Dom Nichols with 7:53 remaining in the third quarter that gave the Panthers a 21-14 lead.
It was actually the first game of the season for Nichols, who was a key part of the Panthers state semifinal team a year ago. Nichols moved back to Pomona and was granted full eligibility to play by CHSAA.
“Dom is a very special player. We are glad he is back on our team,” Johnson said. “We made the decision with our senior counsel and coaching staff to have him back. He deserves to be back on this team.”
Nichols struck again on the first play from scrimmage in the fourth quarter. He sprinted in from 40 yards out to extend the Panthers’ lead to 28-14.
“Dom is a great weapon,” Pomona senior Chase Muller said. “You can always count on him to come in and make a play.”
Seniors Deion Maes and Muller continued to make plays during the Panthers run with victories against Lakewood, Ralston Valley and A-West over the past three weeks. Maes had a pair of rushing touchdowns along with an interception.
Pomona senior Michael Sierra had the biggest interception of the game. He picked off Arvada West junior quarterback Ethan Cook who was trying to thread a pass into senior Ean Lee late in the first quarter with the game tied at 7-7.
“I read the play. I had seen it all night and seen it on film,” Sierra said of his pick-6 that he returned 25 yards to the end zone closed out the scoring before halftime. “It felt good. Coaches told me it was my week to get one.”
Muller found the end zone after Pomona sacked Cook and senior Greg Maes picked up the loose ball to give the Panthers another scoring chance in the fourth quarter.
“We just sealed the deal after that touchdown,” Muller said of his lone score of the night that came with 4:07 left in the game to make the final score 42-14.
A-West (6-2, 2-1) was trying to break a decade-long losing streak against Pomona. The last time the Wildcats won the cross-town rivalry game was in 2009.
A-West is back at NAAC Thursday to face Lakewood (3-5, 0-3). The Wildcats will prep for the postseason with a big game against cross-town rival and No. 7 Ralston Valley (7-1, 2-1) on Friday, Oct. 29, at NAAC.
Pomona is on the road next week with a Friday night showdown at Mullen (2-6, 0-3) before finishing up its regular-season schedule at NAAC against No. 4 Columbine (6-2, 2-1) on Thursday, Oct. 28.
“It feels good,” Sierra said of the Panthers leading the conference with two league games remaining. “We are pushing in the right direction. We are just going to keep it moving from here.”
The Panthers are two wins away from winning the league title and running the table in 5A Jeffco, something that many questioned Pomona could do under a first-year head coach in Johnson.
“We love being the underdog,” Muller said. “Some people are sleeping on Pomona right now, but it’s all right.”
Dennis Pleuss is the Sports Information Director for Jeffco Public Schools. For more Jeffco coverage, go to CHSAANow.com
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