As Colorado big-school football heads into Week 10 to wrap up the 2017 regular season, it’s almost like it is looking into a mirror.
Like the Class 5A players and coaches, we have seen this before.
Thanks to the so-called waterfall proposal, a dubious switch in league outlay that was supposed to level the field but instead has proved to be thinly veiled as just another change for change sake at best, the 2016 season was top-heavy in considerable nonleague matchups, but nearly devoid of anything representing a good, head-to-head meeting in league. And don’t forget that the waterfall erased longtime, meaningful rivalries; increased travel; created stadium problems; made league play inconsequential; and was directly responsible for smaller gates.
And the 5A heayweights have feasted — Centennial League teams, which have won the past five titles as well as a commanding 22 since 1982, won five of the seven new leagues last year, were an aggregate 25-0 and outscored foes by an embarrassing average of 45-13.
As for 2017? It’s even worse. Cherry Creek, Columbine, Eaglecrest, Grandview, Regis Jesuit, Pomona and Valor Christian are each 4-0. The scoring differential average is 42.5-10 with a week to go and five of those seven teams are meeting less-than-.500 programs.
However, the popular feeling is we’ll wave good-bye to the waterfall after this weekend and return to more of a traditional outlay for 2018.
So below are the highlight matchups of Week 10. Valor Christian, Columbine, Pomona and Grandview have nabbed four of the seven automatic postseason berths for winning league titles. The other nine spots figure to come from some share of what’s labelled in ensuing paragraphs for your viewing pleasure:
Best bets
Columbine (8-1) vs. ThunderRidge (3-6), Thursday, 7 p.m., Shea Stadium
The Rebels stand second in playoff qualifying entering the week and were the first big-school team to clinch an automatic spot by winning the Mt. Cameron. … Their only loss was to Jefferson County District-rival Chatfield, in nonleague. … Columbine rushed for 321 yards and six TDs last week in a 50-0 crushing of Mountain Range. … QB Logan DeArment rushed for three TDs and Conner Snow two. … The Rebels defense has allowed only seven points over the past eight quarters. … The Grizzlies tried to hang with Mullen last week that would have kept them in the race for a .500 season in coach Doug Nisenson’s debut season, but fell 34-21. … ThunderRidge allowed 410 yards of offense and could generate only 35 yards on the ground. … Senior QB Taylor White threw for 219 yards, but was picked off twice, the Grizzlies lost a fumble and were hit for an 80-yard TD run on the game’s first play..
Eaglecrest (9-0) vs. Arvada West (7-2), Friday, 4 p.m., NAAC
Opportunity for a second consecutive undefeated regular season is here for the Raptors. They are 19-0 over two seasons before playoffs. … Last week’s 17-15 victory over Ralston Valley was saved on a last-second field goal by Theryne Sandoval-Jimenez. … As usual, Eaglecrest’s Big Three of QB Jalen Mergerson, RB Kenny Wanting and do-everything back Victor Garnes led the way. Mergerson threw for 114 yards and a TD, and had 81 yards rushing with a TD. Wanting ran for 165 yards. And Garnes had 81 all-purpose yards, scored a TD, added seven tackles, two assists and had two tackles for loss. … Fact is, A-West has been one of the top turn-around stories of the season. The Wildcats have rejoined the upper half of the class after going 4-16 from 2014-15 and coming in at 6-4 a year ago. And here is opportunity — a victory would give them a share of the Mt. Wilson and its automatic playoff berth. … Tony Cass ran 26 times for 213 yards and two TDs in last week’s 17-6 decision of Castle Rock’s Castle View.
Fairview (8-1) vs. Mountain Range (4-5), Friday, 7 p.m., Adams 12 North Stadium
Since getting handled 35-14 by Columbine to open the Mt. Cameron season, Fairview has won three games in a row, most recently a 40-0 blowout of visiting Northglenn. … Aidan Atkinson threw for 196 yards and two TDs as the Knights also honored their last state-title-winning team, the ’87 group that beat Cherry Creek 13-10, a game that featured legendary coaches Sam Pagano (Fairview) and Fred Tesone going head-to-head for the 4A championship. …  Senior big man Mariano Kemp ran 17 times for 109 yards, four TDs and a 2-pt. conversion, and caught a pass for 25 yards. … Mountain Range won only two games the past two seasons and raised some hope going 3-2 in nonleague. However, the Mustangs are 1-3 in the Mt. Cameron, clearly the best of the waterfall leagues, and have been outscored 96-6 the past two weeks. They were held to minus-8 yards rushing in last week’s 50-0 ripping by Columbine and had only 45 yards of offense.
Cherry  Creek (7-2) vs. Far Northeast (6-3), Saturday, 1 p.m., Evie Dennis Stadium
No kidding, the Bruins have scored a ridiculous 29 TDs in four Mt. Elbert games. Their lowest game total is six. … Last week, Cherry Creek had the mercy rule on Prairie View by halftime, winning 49-14. It needed only 31 plays from scrimmage and had 16 first downs. … Junior QB Alex Padilla was 10-of-13 for 210 yards and — get this — seven TDs. All three of superior wide receiver Dimitri Stanley’s catches went for TDs, covering 51 yards. … Even with a blowout and running clock, the Bruins’ Raul Rojas kicked off eight times. … It’s quite possible the Warriors were caught looking ahead last week — they fell 10-6 at home to Fort Collins’ Fossil Ridge, which had won only one previous game. … Cherry Creek won last year’s meeting 54-14. … The Warriors were 0-5 in league a year ago, but had won their first three Mt. Elbert matchups his season under new coach Tony Lindsay.
Valor Christian (9-0) at Fountain-Fort Carson (4-5), Friday, 7 p.m., Guy Barickman Stadium
The Eagles have been, well, fabulous as well as thorough. In addition to two out-of-state victories, they beat a 5A heavyweight trio of Mullen, Pomona and Cherry Creek. And in the Mt. Lincoln, they have put up at least 41 points in every outing. … In last week’s 42-26 home decision of Fort Collins’ Poudre, the Impalas scored all of their points after falling behind by 35-0. … Alexis Chavez-Salinas rushed 11 times for 89 yards and two TDs to head Valor. … The Trojans were just 3-7 during the 2016 regular season, but still made the playoffs. … They have dropped their past three games, including last week’s 13-3 setback to Lakewood. The Tigers scored all of their points in the fourth quarter. … Fountain-Fort Carson has been held to single digits in scoring in four of its five losses. The one exception was a 38-24 setback to Highlands Ranch.
Also keep an eye on …
Poudre (5-4) vs. Highlands Ranch (6-3), Thursday, 7 p.m., Shea Stadium
Two Lt. Lincoln teams that seemed to have real promise before twp-game losing streaks set them back on their heels; and both lost to two-time defending 5A champion Valor Christian over the short span.
Rocky Mountain (3-6) vs. Ralston Valley (5-4), Thursday, 7 p.m., NAAC
Lobos took an unexpected hit last week to Rangeview and missed out on a chance at a .500 season after winning just once a year ago; Ralston Valley nearly pulled off the upset of the 5A season, losing to undefeated Eaglecrest late by two points in the Mt. Wilson.
Bear Creek (5-4) at Regis Jesuit (8-1), Friday, 7 p.m., Lou Kellogg Stadium
Feisty Bears have won four in a row after a 1-4 start; only a blown lead in the final seconds to Mullen has marred the Raiders’ slate that includes seven consecutive victories and full control of the Mt. Antero.
Northglenn (5-4) at Mullen (4-5), Friday, 7 p.m., Brother Bernard Kinneavy Field at de La Salle Stadium
After cruising to a 5-1 start, the Norse have dropped their past three outings, all in the Mt. Cameron; a beat-up Mullen has stubbornly kept in the playoff mix, headed by giftd S Adrian Jackson and rugged RB A’Jon Vivens, who rushed for a season-high 230 yards last week against ThunderRidge.
Pomona (7-2) at Cherokee Trail (4-5), Friday, 7 p.m., Legacy Stadium
The versatile, resilient and still very talented Panthers haven’t missed a beat — yet — minus injured QB Ryan Marquez; up-and-down Cougars have won two of their past three games in the Mt. Evans.
Rock Canyon (5-4) vs. Mountain Vista (4-5), Friday, 7 p.m. Shea Stadium
The Jaguars’ Duke Avery ran for 115 yards and a TD last week in a 30-0 whipping of Hinkley; heading into their final Mt. Evans matchup, the Golden Eagles are still searching for their first winning streak this season.
Grandview (7-2) vs. Overland (6-3), Friday, 7 p.m., Stutler Bowl
A Cherry Creek District rivalry from the Centennial League that’s going on in the Mt. Massive; Grandview has yet to lose a league game in nine tries while the Trailblazers have been a welcomed surprise under former Bronco Steve Sewell.