Football: Pomona tackles Regis Jesuit just short of its goal to play for 5A state championship

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Regis Jesuit sophomore running back Chris Adams sheds a tear after the Raiders’ 24-7 loss to Pomona in a 2016 Class 5A state football semifinal contest on Nov. 26, 2016, at the North Area Athletic Complex. Regis Jesuit had its 10-game winning streak snapped and finished 11-2. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

AURORA | Like Pomona quarterback Ryan Marquez, a shot at playing for the Class 5A state championship eluded the Regis Jesuit football team Saturday afternoon.

The fourth-seeded Raiders needed a win over the top-seeded Panthers at the North Area Athletic Complex to earn another crack at winning the program’s first 5A state championship, but Marquez converted time and time again with his legs and arm and led short-handed Pomona to a 24-7 victory.

While the Panthers advanced to the 5A state championship game on Dec. 3 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High — where they’ll get a rematch with Valor Christian, a 10-7 winner over Cherry Creek — coach Danny Filleman’s Regis Jesuit team had a 10-game winning streak snapped and finished the season 11-2.

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Regis Jesuit junior quarterback Justin Lamb, left, tries to escape the rush from Pomona’s Uriah Vigil (33) and Tanner Kimminau (88) during the first half of the Raiders’ 24-7 loss to the Panthers in a Class 5A state football semifinal on Nov. 26, 2016. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

In the second season under Filleman, the Raiders went a step further than they did last season, but remain in search of the program’s first 5A state championship. Regis Jesuit fell short in its bid to make the state championship game for the first time since 2010.

“It only ends good for one team every season and unfortunately that’s not us this year,” Filleman said. “We’ll just get back at it, have a great offseason and keep plugging away. The kids have nothing to hang their heads about, we won 10 or 11 in a row and played some really good football.

“We didn’t play our best today, but credit to Pomona. They had a great game plan and they played their style of football.”

The Raiders scored first on junior DJ Jackson’s 13-yard touchdown run, but committed a pair of turnovers and sputtered the rest of the way offensively as they failed to score at least 34 points for the first time since a 17-0 loss to Mullen Sept. 9.

Trailing early, Pomona (12-1) rallied despite losing senior running back Cameron Gonzales to what appeared to be a serious ankle injury in the opening quarter.

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Regis Jesuit’s Aubrey Marschel-Parker (10) heads upfield after getting a pass from quarterback Justin Lamb in the first half of the 5A state semifinal. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

Already without junior Max Borghi, the Panthers dug in despite being shorthanded and chipped away at Regis Jesuit’s defense by putting the ball more in Marquez’s hands.

“We still had the game scheme (after the injury), but they started to pass it more,” said junior defensive end Jake Heimlicher, who had his second four-sack performance of the postseason.

“We thought we had them because we have a great pass rush, but it was just hard to get to them,” he added. “That was the best line we’ve faced all year.”

Marquez hit a big completion on 3rd-and-nine to get the Panthers in position to tie the score on Kenny Maes’ 1-yard run on the first play of the second quarter.

In the later stages of the period, Marquez hooked up with Jeremy Gonzales for 40 yards on a 3rd-and-16, then turned a broken play into a 9-yard touchdown and a 14-7 Pomona lead at halftime.

“In the end, it ended up where he (Marquez) would get just what they needed a lot of times,” said senior linebacker Will Kulick, who finished with nine tackles.

Regis Jesuit had two chances to score again in the opening half, but came up short on both.

First, Kulick recovered a fumble forced by Heimlicher and returned it to the Pomona 10 yard-line, but the Raiders turned it over themselves on the next play when junior quarterback Justin Lamb’s pitch bounced off Jackson’s hands and was recovered by the Panthers.

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Pomona quarterback Ryan Marquez (2) slips through the Regis Jesuit defense on his way to a key first down late in the Raiders’ 5A state semifinal loss to the Panthers. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

The Raiders got down to the Pomona 27 in the final minute of the first half before Lamb was sacked to take them out of a long field goal range. A Hail Mary pass on the final play snuck through the hands of senior wide receiver Quentin Birch in the back of the end zone.

“We had a good return to the 10 and then we turned it over, so that was a huge momentum shift and then they go on a long drive and score,” Filleman said. “In a game like this, we had to take advantage of our opportunities and we didn’t.”

Kulick noted Regis Jesuit came out a bit flat in the third quarter and Pomona dictated the entire period.

The Raiders got just seven offensive plays in the quarter as the Panthers upped their lead to 21-7. Marquez found Jeremy Gonzales for 29 yards on a 3rd-and-17 and capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown sneak.

Marquez’s 15-yard scramble on a 3rd-and-15 sparked a 13-play drive that took nearly six minutes off the clock and ended in a 32-yard Tyler Thimsen field goal.

Regis Jesuit's Quentin Birch (11) and Alfred Jones watch helplessly from the sidelines during the final minutes of the Raiders' loss to Pomona in a 5A state football semifinal contest. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)
Regis Jesuit’s Quentin Birch (11) and Alfred Jones watch helplessly from the sidelines during the final minutes of the Raiders’ loss to Pomona in a 5A state football semifinal contest. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

Uriah Vigil picked off Lamb in the closing minutes to seal the result.

Despite the end, it was another step in the right direction for the program in two seasons under Filleman.

“I definitely think we’re building forward,” Heimlicher said. “Last year we lost in the quarterfinals and this year in the semifinals, so hopefully next season we have a team that goes all the way.

“I really enjoyed the entire season looking back on it. It’s going to be missed.”

Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel

(1) POMONA 24, (4) REGIS JESUIT 7

Score by quarters:

Regis Jesuit   7   0   0  0 —   7

Pomona         0  14   7  3 — 24

SCORING

First quarter

Regis Jesuit — DJ Jackson 13 yard run (Jared Worrick kick), 4:36

Second quarter

Pomona — Kenny Maes 1 yard run (Tyler Thimsen kick), 11:55

Pomona — Ryan Marquez 9 yard run (Thimsen kick), 0:51

Third quarter

Pomona —Marquez 1 yard run (Thimsen kick), 3:06

Fourth quarter

Pomona — Thimsen 32 yard field goal, 7:30