The touchdowns were plentiful and the swings of momentum in abundant supply Saturday at Sports Authority Field, where Pomona had a few more haymakers in the tank than Eaglecrest in the highest-scoring Class 5A title game in state history.
Pomona’s big three on offense — senior quarterback Ryan Marquez, senior tailback Max Borghi and junior wideout Billy Pospisil — combined for 779 yards and all eight of the team’s touchdowns to give the Panthers a 56-49 victory for the program’s second state title and first since 1988.
“The pressure was on us after being here three years in a row,” Pomona coach Jay Madden said. “Everyone was expecting our guys to win — but it was up to them to come out and earn it. It was supposed to be hard, and it was, and we can enjoy it that much more now.”
The Raptors got the ball to start and senior Jalen Mergerson’s long heave to senior Theryne Sandoval-Jimenez on the game’s first play from scrimmage had Eaglecrest set up in Pomona territory.
But the Panthers forced a fumble a couple plays later, and then used two long touchdown passes from Marquez to Pospisil to take a 14-0 lead into the second quarter.
Eaglecrest, showing the grit of a team who booked its second consecutive undefeated regular season, bounced back with a Mergerson touchdown pass to Dawson Macomber to make it 14-7. But Borghi’s touchdown run on the following drive extended Pomona’s lead to 21-7, and it looked like the game was about to get out of hand.
It was, just not in the sense of the blowout.
The Raptors rattled off 21 unanswered points — including two that were set up on, or came by way of, a Borghi fumble — to take a 28-21 lead with just more than five minutes to play in the second quarter.
“They just kept hammering at us,” Madden said. “We scored those 14 early points and then thought we were going to get an easy win — I knew that wasn’t the case, but it’s often hard to tell kids that.”
Three more scores occurred before the teams headed to the tunnels tied, as both sides combined for 70 points and 795 yards of total offense.
Borghi and Raptors senior Kenny Wantings then trading rushing touchdowns in the third quarter to make it 42-42. Wantings finished with 27 rushes for 210 yards and three scores.
“Everybody talks about Borghi, but you’ve got to put Wantings in the exact same breath as him today, because he really was phenomenal,” Eaglecrest coach Mike Schmitt said. “He ran hard all afternoon and got us a lot of tough yards after contact.”
But it was the Panthers who took over when it mattered most, a stark contrast to the last two state title games in which Pomona was outplayed in the waning moments of losses to Valor Christian.
“You could make a movie about Pomona football,” Madden said. “It’s been such a great ride — and up and down ride — but I told the guys, ‘When you put state champions at the end of that story, it becomes a movie, not just a good story.’”
First Borghi padded his stat line with another short scoring run late in the third, and then Pospisil got free again for another touchdown grab off the hand of Marquez, this time midway through the fourth, to give the Panthers (12-2) a two-touchdown lead.
Borghi, a Washington State commit, finished with 247 yards on 31 carries with three touchdowns.
Mergerson rallied the Raptors (13-1) with a late touchdown drive with just over a minute to play, but it was too late for Eaglecrest, which was making its first championship showing since 1993.
“We had to rally around each other to overcome those first-half fumbles and the adversity caused by Eaglecrest’s offense getting going,” Billy Pospisil said. “But we always knew no matter how often the momentum swung, we could still win the game if we executed.”
5A title game MVP
Billy Pospisil, Pomona — The junior wideout ran two ankle-breaking post routes to get the Panthers up 14-0 early, and then came back around for another clutch touchdown catch in the fourth quarter to give the Panthers breathing room. Pospisil turned in the game’s most explosive performance in a shootout stacked with elite skill players on both sides.
Pomona… 14 — 21 — 14 — 7 — 56
Eaglecrest… 0 — 35 — 7 — 7 — 49
First quarter — PHS: Billy Pospisil 32 pass from Ryan Marquez (Macguire Mallory kick) 5:02. PHS: Pospisil 55 yard pas from Marquez (Mallory kick) 0:46. Second quarter — EHS: Dawson Macomber 25 pass from Jalen Mergerson (Theryne Sandoval-Jimenez kick) 10:48. PHS: Max Borghi 28 run (Mallory kick) 9:28. EHS: Kenny Wantings 72 run (Sandoval-Jimenez kick) 9:10. EHS: Wantings 2 run (Sandoval-Jimenez kick) 5:14. EHS: Sam Onilenla 31 fumble recovery (Sandoval-Jimenez kick) 5:03. PHS: Riley Govan 10 pass from Marquez (Mallory kick) 2:14. EHS: Corey Corbin 58 pass from Mergerson (Sandoval-Jimenez kick) 1:26. PHS: Colton Muller 31 pass from Marquez (Mallory kick) 0:33. Third quarter — PHS: Borgi 3 run (Mallory kick) 8:51. EHS: Wantings 10 run (Sandoval-Jimenez kick) 5:28. PHS: Borghi 2 run (Mallory kick) 2:55. Fourth quarter — PHS: Pospisil 29 pass from Marquez (Mallory kick) 6:25. EHS: Mergerson 29 run (Sandoval-Jimenez kick) 1:11.
Passing — Pomona, Ryan Marquez 20-22, 345 yards, 5 TD, 0 INT. Eaglecrest, Jalen Mergerson 11-17, 279 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT.
Rushing — Pomona, Max Borghi 31 carries, 247 yards, 3 TD; Marquez 7-72. Eaglecrest, Kenny Wantings 27-210, 3 TD; Mergerson 15-84 1 TD.
Receiving — Pomona, Billy Pospisil 9 catches, 187 yards, 3 TD; David Ross 4-76. Eaglecrest, Dawson Macomb 3-60, 1 TD; Corey Corbin 2-101, 1 TD.
Defense — Pomona, Kyle Moretti 11 tackles; Sanjay Strickland 8; Tanner Kimminau 8. Eaglecrest, Corey Corbin 10; Victor Garnes 9; Cody Bardin 9; Kyle Wagener 8, 1 sack.