Nehemiah Gross wasn’t keeping count.
So when the Poway High School senior running back learned at intermission Friday night that he had scored five touchdowns in the first half of the Titans’ game against visiting Rancho Bernardo, his reaction was simply: “Oh, wow.”
Gross played sparingly in the second half as Poway ran past the Broncos 48-7 to finish the regular season 8-2 and win a second straight Palomar League title with a 4-0 mark. Gross scored on runs of 9, 18, 2, 20 and 40 yards and finished with 182 yards on 20 carries.
“I hadn’t passed two touchdowns in a game before tonight,” said Gross, who had 148 yards by halftime as the Titans won their sixth straight game (scoring at least 35 points in each) and likely secured a top-four seeding in the Division II playoffs and a bye next weekend.
“After the (10-9) loss to La Costa Canyon, and then the (23-13) loss to Oceanside (to drop Poway to 2-2), the seniors were determined to push each other to be the best that we could be,” said Gross. “Beating Rancho Bernardo to claim the league title as well is special, since they’re our natural rival after MC (Mt. Carmel) moved out of our league.”
Titans coach Damian Gonzalez saw the game as a reward for a long climb.
“We earned it the way we played the second half of the season,” Gonzalez said. “It was a great team effort, on the defensive side especially. It’s a great accomplishment any time you can win back-to-back Palomar League titles.”
Ivy Adair led the Broncos (1-9, 1-3 in Palomar League play) with 100 yards on 20 carries, but RB couldn’t stop Gross, though the Titan lead was only 7-0 through the first quarter.
Gross found no room to his left, then reversed his field to score from 9 yards out four minutes into the game.
RB then went on a 13-play, 82-yard drive, but came up empty after a missed field goal. Gross’ four scores in the second quarter gave Poway a 35-0 lead at the half.
Chris French ran 63 yards for a TD late in the third quarter to give Poway a 48-0 advantage, then the Broncos drove 80 yards in 15 plays, capped by a 1-yard dive by quarterback Michael Searson for RB’s lone score. Kicker Jordan Choukair was perfect on two field goals and six extra points for the Titans.
“That’s just a hell of a football team,” Rancho Bernardo coach Tristan McCoy said of the Titans. “Our kids did all we asked of them. I think we were prepared, and at times we showed some life—but that’s some football team over there.”