ARVADA - Barely three months ago the Ralston Valley Mustangs strapped on their helmets and went to work, eager to build off of last season’s …
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ARVADA - Barely three months ago the Ralston Valley Mustangs strapped on their helmets and went to work, eager to build off of last season’s playoff run - which ended in the quarterfinals.
And on Friday, the hard work paid off as a hoard of Mustang defenders halted Pomona’s Konner Burns on a two-point conversion attempt in overtime to seal a 22-20 quarterfinals victory at NAAC and advance to a semifinals matchup with Cherokee Trail on Saturday.
“We knew we had to stop them,” senior Jakob Buys said. “Our defense, especially right there, stepped up. We knew coming into this game it was not going to be easy.”
Ralston Valley put the pressure on in the overtime period with Andrew Wingate’s touchdown run and Carlos Gonzalez’s 2-point conversion.
Pomona responded with a 9-yard score by Chris Marquez, but Burns was swarmed by the Mustangs on the two-point try leading to Ralston Valley’s celebration.
“This is awesome, just to be right here right now,” Buys said. “I love every single one of these guys. To celebrate with a family you love, family you spend six months with throughout the year, it’s just emotional.”
It was a battle of two heavyweight football teams, and two squads that know each other well. Earlier this season, Ralston Valley topped Pomona 30-22 and since then neither team had lost a game going into Friday’s battle in front of a packed stadium.
But that streak had to end for one of the two juggernauts. Pomona came into the game scoring more than 40 points over the previous three weeks, while Ralston Valley had shutout its first two opponents (Castle View and Fort Collins) of the state playoffs.
“Pomona is a good squad,” Ralston Valley coach Matt Loyd said. “We knew they were going to play us tough.”
Unlike the first meeting, it was apparent that it was going to be a defensive battle with each team’s defense controlling the field. Pomona scored on its opening possession, but could only score seven more points despite getting into the Mustangs’ territory five times.
Buys tackled Marquez for a six-yard loss to halt a first-half drive and the Panthers twice turned the ball over in the second half.
“We played hard, we played relatively smart,” Pomona coach Jay Madden said “We just had a couple of mistakes that haunted us.”
It was apparent that the Panthers were out for revenge from the opening whistle, forcing the Mustangs to go three-and-out and then turning to their run game to wear down Ralston Valley’s defense.
Marquez touched the ball seven times on the opening drive, including finding paydirt from two yards out.
Jacob Knipp evened the game up for Ralston Valley when he scored on a QB sneak to cap a 10-play, 70-yard drive by the Mustangs in the second quarter.
Alec Feland broke loose for a 38-yard gain to open the second half, which took the Panthers to Ralston Valley’s 25. However, Marquez fumbled on the next possession.
The Mustangs took advantage of the opportunity and Wingard’s 34-yard run took the ball to Pomona’s 10 and three plays later Knipp scored his second TD of the game to give Ralston Valley its first lead.
The Panthers responded on the next possession. Marquez picked up three first downs on the drive, including a key third down to set up an 11-yard touchdown pass from Feland to Hunter Hogoboom.
Ralston Valley had a chance to win the game late in the fourth, but Collin Root’s 47-yard field goal sailed wide left.
There was a scare in the fourth quarter, when Justin Buys, Jakob’s brother, was injured while during a play. The game was delayed nearly 20 minutes while Justin Buys was attended to by paramedics and EMTs and was taken off the field on a stretcher. Lloyd said the senior defensive back suffered a stinger and was taken to the hospital just to be safe.
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