5A FOOTBALL FIRST ROUND PREVIEW

If we have seen the last of the so-called waterfall proposal – and many are praying we have – the odd, two-year plan that thumbed its nose at traditional outlays for big schools is leaving us with something to remember other than lopsided league scores across the board.

A very similar playoff field from a year ago.

Check it out – 13 of the 16 programs have returned from the 2016 bracket, notably the two-time defending champion (Valor Christian), the runner-up the past two seasons (Pomona) and regular visitors to the Class 5A bracket such as the likes of Cherry Creek, Columbine, Eaglecrest, Fairview, Grandview, Mullen, Ralston Valley and Regis Jesuit.

So not that much has changed. The privates as well as the former Centennial and Jefferson County league powers remain the primary targets, and resistance from surrounding districts and leagues has been spotty at best.

That aside, the race for the 97th big-school title in history is on and will begin on Friday.

Below are the matchups, seeds, records, sites, dates, times, facts, numbers and names you’ll need to know to enjoy viewing the first round:

 

(16) Chaparral (7-3) vs. (1) Valor Christian (10-0), Friday, 7 p.m., Valor Christian

They have met once – Valor rolled by 47-3 in the second round of the 2015 playoffs in a 32-team field. … Chaparral has won six of its past seven games, the one blemish a 34-0 blowout by Pomona. … The Wolverines had a modest 237 yards of total offense in last week’s 36-20 decision of Hinkley. … Sophomore Konnor Ruth threw for two TDs. … The following sentence has a chance to be typed and read over and over for days – the Eagles have won seven titles over three classifications in eight years. … Valor has had two undefeated seasons, in 2009 (3) and 2011 (4A), both 14-0. … Twenty-Four Eagles have attempted a rush. … With 49 TDs from scrimmage, Valor stands sixth in 5A scoring (369 points). … Chaparral is fifth in 5A points permitted (136). … Eagles sophomore Luke McCaffrey has scored 10 TDs and passed for another six.

 

(9) Lakewood (8-2) vs. (8) Grandview (8-2), Saturday, noon, Legacy Stadium

Their last matchup was in the 2014 playoffs; Grandview won a second-rounder 40-0 on the way to a semifinal showing against Valor. … Credit Lakewood for its best season since finishing runner-up to Columbine and going 12-2. … The Tigers QB tandem of Ezekiel Sundberg and Pierce Holly has very similar statistics. They’ve combined for 16 TD tosses and seven rushing TDs. … Lakewood’s two losses were back-to-back to open the Mt. Lincoln League, 35-28 to Highlands Ranch and 41-7 to Valor Christian. …  Grandview has only given up 105 points, or one less than Eaglecrest, which led 5A. … The Wolves have won six consecutive games, including five to sweep to the Mt. Massive crown, after beginning 2-2. They were knocked off by Cherry Creek District foes Eaglecrest and Cherry Creek in Weeks 3 and 4. … Junior RB Jordan Billingsley has 1,224 yards and 11 TDs.

 

(13) Poudre (6-4) vs. (4) Pomona (8-2), Friday, 7 p.m., NAAC

These two don’t see each other that much. The last time was in 2015, when the Panthers spanked Poudre 44-22 in the preliminaries two years ago on the way to the first of two consecutive state runners-up finishes. … The Impalas began 4-0, but have stumbled a bit, finishing 2-4. Last week, they won 21-14 on the road against Highlands Ranch. …  Senior RB J.T. Erickson has 1,463 yards rushing, an average of 6.4 yards per carry and a whopping 26 TDs. … The only other Impala with a rushing TD is QB Troy McFadden, who has two. … Very large news in Panther-ville – very productive senior QB Ryan Marquez, out the past month with a broken wrist, will play, coach Jay Madden said. … Since also returning from injury, a knee-ligament problem that required off-season surgery, the speedy Max Borghi has been eased into the lineup since the first few weeks and rushed for 786 yards and 15 TDs. … Pomona junior WR Billy Pospisil is about as good as there is in the state – he has 47 catches for 1,083 yards (a 23.0 average) and 10 TDs.

 

(12) Arvada West (7-3) vs. (5) Fairview (9-1), Friday, 7 p.m., Recht Field

Both are former members of the short-lived North Metro League. Fairview won the last meeting, 41-21 in 2013. … Despite a 35-7 thumping to Eaglecrest last week, it has been a breakout year for head coach Brad Pyatt and the Wildcats. They are in position to make a move and have won seven of their past eight games. … Junior RB Tony Cass has 1,468 yards (third in 5A) and 14 TDs. … No surprise Fairview is here. Since 2013, when they were state runners-up, the Knights are 42-5 in the regular season, which makes for solid qualification. … The Knights like to throw it, much to the delight of sophomore QB Aidan Atkinson. He led big schools with 2,677 yards (and had 19 TDs). … However, don’t think for a second that Fairview can’t run it. Senior Mariano Kemp has bulled his way to 1,147 yards and 19 TDs. … If there’s such a thing as under-rated fronts in 5A, Fairview deserves consideration. It has been banging.

 

(14) Highlands Ranch (6-4) vs. (3) Columbine (9-1), Friday, 7 p.m., Jefferson County Stadium

It was a nail-biter a year ago in the prelims – Columbine got past the Falcons 21-17. … Quite the year for the Falcons, who had their head coach resign a day before their opener and have made the playoffs despite losing their past three games. … Junior RB Dominic Bettini has been dependable and durable – 219 carries for 1,454 yards and 14 TDs, … Highlands Ranch has thrown for a very modest 592 yards. … Another fantastic season to date for the Andy Lowry-coached Rebels. In a quarter-century, they have all of one losing season. … As always, Columbine rushing has been terrific (2,878 yards) as well as balanced. It doesn’t have a 1,000-yard player, although six have surpassed triple figures and is topped by Conner Snow’s 868 and team-leading 11 TDs. … Junior QB Logan DeArment has protected the ball. He has 16 TD tosses against only two interceptions.

 

(11) Mullen (5-5) vs. (6) Regis Jesuit (9-1), Friday, 7 p.m., Lou Kellogg Stadium

No need to think too hard – this Catholic-school rivalry goes back for decades. And the last meeting isn’t forgotten. Mullen trailed by 13 points with less than 3 minutes to play and rallied to win 40-39 in the final seconds in Week 2. … The Mustangs haven’t risen above .500 all season, although they’ve won their past two games. … Injuries? Mullen has lost players like first-graders lose clothing articles. However, senior backs Adrian Jackson, who recently was named to the Under Armour Al-American game, and A’Jon Vivens have been particularly big of late. … Coach Danny Filleman’s Raiders have won eight straight games and looked very good doing it. Each victory has been by at least 25 points. … Junior RB Kiahn Martinez has 1,356 yards rushing, a 7.8 average and 20 TDs. … Aubrey Marchel-Parker has seven TDs among his 39 catches for 685 yards.

 

(10) Ralston Valley (6-4) vs. (7) Cherry Creek (8-2), Friday, 7 p.m., Stutler Bowl

Familiarity is the word. A year ago, it was Cherry Creek 14, Ralston Valley 0 in the preliminaries. Cherry Creek went on to the semifinals as it lost 10-7 to Valor. … In 2014, Ralston Valley was 12-0 before losing to Cherry Creek 27-15 in the semifinals and the Bruins went on to beat Valor. … The Mustangs got off to an 0-3 start this season, but rallied to win six of seven games, including by 17-14 to regular 4A power Pine Creek. … Ralston Valley got past Rocky Mountain 34-9 the past week. … After dropping its opener to Regis Jesuit, Cherry Creek won eight of nine games, the only blemish a 26-14 setback to Valor. … Scoring at least six TDs in every game in the Mt. Elbert, the Bruins have put up 400 points, second to Pomona’s 5A-leading 422. … Thank junior QB Alex Padilla, who has some 37 TD passes, 18 more than any other 5A player. … Future Colorado Buffalo Dimitri Stanley has 71 catches for 10 TDs and junior Marcus Miller has 41 receptions for 12 TDs.

 

(15) Fountain-Fort Carson (4-6) vs. (2) Eaglecrest (10-0), Friday, 7 p.m., Legacy Stadium

The military-based Trojans have met and beaten Eaglecrest twice this decade, 19-0 in 2011 and 22-16 in 2010. … Fountain-Fort Carson, which made last year’s playoffs despite a 3-7 regular season, has dropped its past four games, all in the Mt. Lincoln. … The Trojans have managed only 23 points over their last 12 quarters. … Senior Eric Donnell has passed for eight TDs and rushed for six for Fountain-Fort Carson. … You may not know the following – Eaglecrest has given up the fewest points in 5A, 104. … The Raptors have won 20 consecutive regular-season games, the best current streak in 5A, and 21 of 22 since the start of the 2016 season. … No secret here – Eaglecrest has three high-end skill players in Jalen Mergerson, Kenny Wanting and Victor Garnes (they’ve had hands in 48 TDs), and any hope of victory by the opposition means stopping them.

 


Neil Devlin

Neil Devlin

Neil H. Devlin is in his 40th year covering Colorado high-school sports. He's currently the Sports Information Director at Mullen High in southwest Denver. Twitter: @neildevlin. Web: www.mullenhigh,com

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