Pomona controls tempo in win over Tigers
That’s the thing Andy Willett needed to take from Saturday’s nonconference football game with Pomona at Stocker Stadium.
The Grand Junction High School junior, who began the season third on the quarterback depth chart, was quickly thrust into the starting role after injuries to Sean Rubalcaba one week before the first game and to Willett’s brother, Charlie, in last week’s season-opening loss to Arvada West.
Saturday, Andy Willett got plenty of reps. He just got them against a potent Panthers squad that is ranked fourth in Class 5A and was able to control the tempo in a 35-14 Pomona victory.
“He only got seven game reps last week,” Grand Junction coach Robbie Owens said of Willett’s late appearance in the Arvada West game.
This was only Willett’s second week taking snaps with the first-team offense in practice.
Although Charlie Willett was healthy for Saturday’s game, the Tigers chose to start Andy at quarterback and play Charlie at receiver.
Andy began the season sharing tailback duties with Jayke Brock. His strength as a quarterback is in his running ability, and he used that effectively Saturday, rushing for 174 yards on 22 carries.
Although it gave up yardage in the middle of the field, Pomona’s defense did an effective job of keeping the Tigers out of the end zone, and Panthers quarterback Nathan Grimes effectively directed the offense.
Grimes hit receiver Jamar Herbert on a crossing pattern for a touchdown on Pomona’s opening drive. The Panthers scored twice on the ground, both by tailback Tyler Pace, before the half.
On the day, Grimes completed 15 of 16 pass attempts for 266 yards and three touchdowns.
Trailing 28-0, the Tigers finally got on the board with just less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter. After a punt, Grand Junction took over at its own 46 yard line. Willett called his own number over right tackle and found 54 yards of running room ahead of him.
Although his running highlighted the Tigers’ offense, Willett struggled throwing the ball, connecting on only
7 of 23 passes with one interception.
“At first it was a challenge to get around and square my shoulders,” he said. “I need to get my reads.”
“Right now we’re a run-oriented team,” Owens said.
Willett liked the gains he made from last week.
“I feel I’m growing a lot,” he said. “It’s a learning thing.”
The problem for the Tigers is they’re having to learn against some of the top Class 5A programs in the state.
“The one thing we’ve got to do is build some confidence. It’s just hard against teams like that,” Owens said of playing Arvada West (ranked No. 7) and Pomona back to back, with Highlands Ranch on the schedule this week on the road.
“We’ve got to play our schedule,” Owens said.