Cherry Creek holds off Pomona in OT

ARVADA — It was a back-and-forth kind of night at North Area Athletic Complex in Arvada on Thursday as the No.1-ranked Cherry Creek Bruins (4-0) topped the No.5-ranked Pomona Panthers (2-2) 35-34 in overtime.

The perennial powerhouse Panthers showed why they’re a team to beat, pushing the game to the very last play with a two-point conversion attempt, but the Bruins managed the biggest stop of the night to take the victory.

“That was a game of ebb and flow, and a game between two really good high school football teams,” Bruins head coach Dave Logan said. “I told my defensive coordinator to prepare for the two-point play because we felt pretty certain they would go for two. Given how they moved the ball on offense, I might have done the same thing.

“They were going for the win. Either you win it or you lose it.”

The anticipation worked as the Bruins forced a turnover to end the game 35-34. The play capped off an exhilarating second-half recovery for Cherry Creek, which was trailing 28-21 at the start of the fourth quarter.

After an entrenched battle at their own 8-yard line, the Bruins managed to force a fumble to set up the game-tying drive. Two quick strikes in the air from the Bruins, the former a trick-play pass from wide receiver Marcus Miller to fellow receiver Chase Penry, and the latter a 15-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Alex Padilla to Penry, saw Cherry Creek go 86 yards to make it 28-28 with 2:48 left in regulation.

The stop and subsequent drive was a game changer for both squads.

“We’re seven down. We knew we couldn’t give them points,” Logan said. “But again, we get the stop and then we’ve got enough to go down and score. We had a couple big, big plays. I thought Alex made a huge throw to Chase in the end zone. He put it where Chase could get it. So that’s kids on a short week executing at crunch time, and as a coach you’re proud of that kind of execution.”

For Pomona, failing to push the lead to just 31-21 was bad enough, but surrendering the tying touchdown immediately afterward was tough to overcome.

“That obviously killed us. I mean if you get that field goal in, but we let them drive 85 yards to score,” Panthers head coach Jay Madden said. “We got to give them credit. They got good players. They make good plays, and they had a couple trick plays that got us fooled, but we were fighting the whole time. Our kids never gave up.”

Both teams had a chance in overtime and both found the end zone quickly — the Bruins on a quarterback sneak from Padilla, and Pomona on a run from Therious Robison. But it was the Panthers’ decision to win now and go for two that ended up forcing the result.

“They’re a big, physical offensive football team. You give them the ball at the 10-yard line, they’re going to score most times,” Madden said. “So we figured, ‘You know what, let’s go for it right now and try and stay as healthy as we can.’ We thought we had a good play called, and we almost got it.”

Pomona struck first when quarterback Riley Welsch found receiver Colton Muller open downfield for a 48-yard touchdown with 3:04 left in the first quarter.

The Bruins responded immediately to tie the game 7-7 after Seamus Henderson split up the middle and charged 53 yards to find the end zone. Cherry Creek struck two more times to make it 21-7 with 5:35 remaining in the half.

The Panthers scored when Welsch converted on a 14-yard run, slipping a tackle to convert a broken play with 2:02 left in the second quarter.

With momentum on their side, the Panthers started the third quarter with an 80-yard drive to force the 21-21 tie. The effort was capped off by a one-yard rush from Robison.

“It’s the No. 1 team in the state. We showed up tonight, and we played really hard. So did they, and it was a great game,” Madden said. “ I feel really good with where we’re at right now.”

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