If not for the three turnovers, the Poway High football team would have had an easier time against Palomar League rival Ramona on homecoming night. But the Titans made up for their mistakes by forcing four Bulldog turnovers and blocking a punt for a safety in a 37-21 win Friday night.
Nehemiah Gross ran for 189 yards and scored two touchdowns as Poway (5-2, 2-0 in Palomar play) pulled away after the Bulldogs (4-3, 0-2) closed within two points early in the fourth quarter.
"We kept them in the ballgame," said Poway coach Damian Gonzalez. "We made some uncharacteristic mistakes. But give all the credit to Ramona for taking advantage. We were lucky to come out on top."
Maybe not lucky, since the Titans had a huge advantage in the running game, led by senior running back Gross, who had nine rushes of 10 yards or more on the night.
"Our game plan was to run the ball on them, and we were able to do that," said Gross, who scored both his 1-yard TDs in the second quarter to cap Poway scoring drives that followed a pair of Ramona fumbles.
The Bulldogs started strongly, stopping Poway on a three-and-out following the opening kickoff, then driving 46 yards in 10 plays, with quarterback Hunter McHargue connecting with Brandon Fitzpatrick from six yards out for a 7-0 lead.
After Garrett Binkley intercepted a Max Washam pass at midfield, Ramona drove inside the Poway 20 before a fumbled exchange gave the Titans the ball at their own 16. It took 14 plays to cover 84 yards and tie the game at 7-7, with Gross gaining 66 of those yards on nine carries, including the 1-yard scoring dive with 6:50 remaining before halftime.
An 11-yard Bulldog punt gave Poway a short field on its next possession, and the Titans needed just two plays to cover 42 yards, with Gross gaining 19 before Lance Mudd took it the final 23 for a 14-7 lead.
A fumble on the first play after the kickoff gave Poway another opportunity, with Gross capping a six-play, 21-yard drive for a 21-7 lead with 1:29 left in the second quarter. Chris French then broke through to block a Ramona punt through the end zone for a safety and a 23-7 advantage.
After receiving the free kick, Poway looked for more with seven seconds left in the half, but Bulldog linebacker Keyshaun Crichlow shot the gap to sack Washam, and teammate Tanner "T-Bone" Williams returned the fumble 62 yards for a touchdown as the clock ran out, pulling Ramona within 23-14 at the break.
Neither team could score in the third quarter, but when McHargue connected with Fitzpatrick again, this time from 30 yards out on a third-and-six, Ramona pulled within two at 23-21 with 9:11 left in the game.
"I thought the ball would be way over my head, but I was able to run under it in the end zone," said Fitzpatrick, who made an over-the-shoulder grab and picked up his first two TD receptions of the season. "At that point, I thought we could come back."
But Poway responded with a six-play, 68-yard drive, extending its lead to 30-21 when senior wide receiver Derek Babiash hauled in a 47-yard scoring pass from Washam. A fumble and an interception by Ryan Sharpe ended Ramona's next two possessions, with Washam completing the scoring on a 1-yard plunge.
Poway visits Westview next week, while Ramona travels to top-rated Oceanside.