It’s here … and probably the last time we’ll see it.
Class 5A is entering league play this week in the second year of a two-season outlay of the so-called waterfall designation, a plan that was implemented in an attempt to balance the power of big schools.
However, an idea that seemed worthy of trying was quickly found to: erase traditional matchups; account for weakened leagues; make it easier for certain groups (read: Centennial and Jefferson County league members) to dominate; increase travel and costs; feature nonleague matchups as more of a draw that league games; and cut the playoff field in half from 32 to 16 teams that last year included two teams with losing records and another with only a .500 mark under the RPI designations.
As a result, the buzz around big schools is that there will be a return to traditional leagues (that remained untouched in other sports) for the next cycle. In addition, where to put parochial powers Mullen and Valor Christian is being discussed — probably in the Centennial or Jeffco groups. And will Colorado return to a 32-team playoff field, keep a 10-game regular-season schedule and perhaps join the power states in having its champion and runner-up play 15 games as opposed to 14?
As it is, five of the Centennial teams won league titles by going undefeated a year ago and are popular favorites again. Pomona and Regis Jesuit also are looking good.
So there figures to be minimal change from a year ago, although the contenders are lining up as we head into Week 6.
The top matchups to watch are marked below for your viewing pleasure:
Best bets
Mullen (2-3) vs. Mountain Range (3-2), Thursday, 7 p.m., Adams 12 North Stadium
Mullen, the defending Mt. Cameron League champions, were idle a week ago after playing in Washington State, a 31-28 setback to Bothell High. Their other two losses were to Pomona and Valor Christian. … Junior QB Dom DePizzol has completed 55 percent of his passes for 1,125 yards and 12 TDs. He also has been picked off nine times. … Mullen’s fronts have been playing well of late. … Going deep? Wind Henderson is averaging 24.1 yards per catch. He also has six TDs. … Mullen won last year’s game 45-3. … Mountain Range has won its past two games, most recently 28-7 over Douglas County in Castle Rock. … Junior QB Evan Brodnik has thrown for in TDs. … Mountain Range’s leading rusher is Bryce Levinson, who is averaging a tidy 7.4 yards per carry to go with seven TDs.
Fairview (5-0) vs. Columbine (4-1), Friday, 4 p.m., Jefferson County Stadium
As usual, the Knights are treating the regular season as if it’s their party. Since 2013, they are a terrific 38-4 before playoffs. … Fairview’s 214 points are second in 5A to Doherty’s 220. … Sophomore QB Aidan Atkinson has 13 TD passes and only two interceptions. He also has thrown for 1,433 yards. … When not throwing, Atkinson has the luxury of handing off to senior bulldozer Mariano Kemp, who has 626 yards rushing and nine TDs. … Columbine won last year’s Mt. Cameron meeting 36-15. … The Rushing Rebels took their first hit two weeks ago, 35-14 to rival Chatfield, but responded in Week 5 with a 48-28 thumping of Denver East. … Credit Logan Dearmont, a junior QB — in 43 attempts in the air, he has eight scoring passes, zero interceptions. … Four Rebels have at least 175 yards rushing to this point, which is nothing new for them.  Sophomore Tanner Hollens, with 362 leads that list and has one of the team’s 14 rushing scores.
Poudre (4-1) vs. Fountain-Fort Carson (3-2), Friday, 7 p.m., Guy Barickman Stadium
The Impalas are off to their best start since going 6-0 in 2008. They eventually finished 10-3 and lost to eventual state champion Mullen in the semifinals. … Poudre fell 21-7 to crosstown-rival Rocky Mountain last week, its third game in a row against a Fort Collins foe. … QB Troy McFadden has six TD tosses in 73 attempts, 51 completions. … Fountain-Fort Carson won the Mt. Lincoln matchup 27-23 a year ago. … Despite going 3-7 in the regular season in 2016, the Trojans made the playoffs — then were beaten 53-28 by Mullen. … Since longtime Trojans coach Mitch Johnson refused the mandate from administration to reapply for his head-coaching job following the 2015 season, the Trojans are 6-10. … Fountain-Fort Carson has won two straight games, most recently a 35-26 decision of Colorado Springs’ Doherty, a matchup of the only big-school programs south of Castle Rock.
Legend (3-2) at Valor Christian (5-0), Friday, 7 p.m., Valor Christian
Titans are 8-7 since Monte Thelen took over as head coach to begin the 2016 season. … Caiden Meis rushed 25 times for 237 yards and three TDs in Legend’s 44-26 victory over Boulder last week. … Micah Butte has thrown for 10 TDs. … Valor Christian won last year’s Mt. Lincoln meeting 54-7. … As usual, the Eagles’ mark includes two out-of-state victories, over Faith Lutheran, Nev., and Greater Atlanta Christian. … Junior Joshia Davis is literally carrying the load for Valor, rushing 95 times for 572 yards and seven TDs. Davis also is tied for the team lead with 14 receptions (along with Ben Anderson). … Sophomore Chase Lopez has 21 solo tackles.
Highlands Ranch (4-1) vs. Lakewood (5-0), Saturday, 1 p.m., Jeffco Stadium
The Falcons’ start has been rousing. Only a 24-0 setback to Regis Jesuit has marked a strong nonleague season that began with its coach resigning the day before the first game. … Highlands Ranch won the 2016 Mt. Lincoln matchup 38-14. … Over his 667 yards rushing, junior Dominic Bettini is averaging a robust 7.7 yards per carry for a team-leading five TDs on the ground. … A dozen Falcons have caught a pass, headed by the eight by junior Lucas Allison. … Don’t look now, but Lakewood is one of only four undefeated 5A teams (Eaglecrest, Fairview and Valor Christian are the others). … Thirteen Tigers have a rushing attempt. Tops is Ezekiel Sundberg, who has 390 yards and five TDs. … Brian Duong leads Lakewood with 33 solo tackles. … Next up for Lakewood — it will host Valor Christian.
Also keep an eye on …
Arvada West (4-1) vs. Rangeview (1-4), Friday, 7 p.m., Aurora Pubic Schools Stadium
In a Mt. Wilson opener, Wildcats finally have it going on under coach and former A-West star Brad Pyatt; Raiders have given up a 5A-worst 239 points.
Cherokee Trail (2-3) vs. Chaparral (3-2), Friday, 7 p.m., EchoPark Stadium
In the Mt. Evans, Cougars are coming off consecutive handlings by district rivals Eaglecrest and Grandview, losing by a combined 68-27; Wolverines lead 5A in points allowed at 54.
Cherry Creek (3-2) vs. Fossil Ridge (0-5), Friday, 7 p.m., French Field
In the Mt. Elbert, Bruins, who handed coach Dave Logan his 250th career victory a couple of weeks ago, and Dimitri Stanley (44 catches, eight TDs) are coming off a 26-14 setback to Valor (and we may see that matchup again); SaberCats have scored the second-fewest points (35) in the class.
Legacy (3-2) at Regis Jesuit (4-1), Friday, 7 p.m., Lou Kellogg Stadium
In the Mt. Antero, the Lightning (QB Alec Lewis threw for 334 yards, a Legacy single-game record) are fresh from a 40-34 OT setback to Overland; host and 2016 league champ Raiders have won their past three outings by a combined 99-26.
Northglenn (4-1) vs. ThunderRidge (2-3), Friday, 7 p.m., Shea Stadium
A Mt. Cameron matchup with the Norse off to one of their best starts in years; the Grizzlies have split their past two games and there have been a combined 17 points scored … by both teams.
Overland (3-2) vs. Arapahoe (1-4), Friday, 7 p.m., Littleton Public Schools Stadium
The Trailblazers’ 40-34 OT victory last week over Legacy was probably as good as they have had in a good bit; the Warriors’ disappointing nonleague season can be at least momentarily forgotten with a Mt. Massive victory.
Rocky Mountain (2-3) vs. Eaglecrest (5-0), Friday, 7 p.m., Legacy Stadium
Lobos have only three victories in their past dozen games as they begin the Mt. Wilson; Raptors and QB Jalen Mergerson (1,163 yards of total offense) number four blowouts among their victories and they have won 15 regular-season games in succession.
Pomona (3-2) vs. Rock Canyon (4-1), Saturday, 4 p.m., Shea Stadium
Two-time state runners-up Panthers have lost so far only to two-time defending champ Valor Christian and Kansas City’s Rockhurst; Jaguars have had a nice start, but are facing their first team with a winning record as well as the defending Mt. Evans winner.