The high school football season has hit its midpoint and is heading into the home stretch now that nonconference play is over.
All teams have five games left to make or break their season, and the Coloradoan will preview each local team’s conference this week.
First up is the Class 5A Mount Elbert Conference.
The favorite: Cherry Creek is just 2-3, but the Bruins are ranked No. 10 in Class 5A due to their history and a loaded nonconference schedule. A traditional powerhouse, Cherry Creek made the 5A semifinals last year. This year they’ve beaten current No. 9 Doherty and lost to No. 5 Grandview, No. 7 Regis Jesuit and No. 8 Valor Christian. The Bruins are conference favorites until they’re knocked off.
The Bruins have issues at quarterback, with starter Alex Padilla (thumb) out for the season and his backup missing last week with turf toe. The Bruins started running back Trey Windham at QB last week and he threw for 116 yards (completing 62.5 percent of his passes) in the loss to Valor Christian.
Knocking on the door: Fossil Ridge is off to a 4-1 start, the best in school history, and receiving votes in the CHSAANow.com poll. The SaberCats hope to make a run at a conference title, and opening league play at Cherry Creek gives them a chance for the biggest win in program history.
The SaberCats defense flexed its muscles in shutting down high-scoring Lakewood last week, and that unit will need to be dominant for Fossil Ridge to contend for a conference title.
Lurking: The Horizon Hawks (3-2) have the top running back in the state in Cade Verkler, who has 1,180 yards in five games. Horizon has one of Colorado’s top coaches in Frank Ybarra and the always-solid Hawks are good enough to disrupt the title race.
The rest: Denver East, Prairie View, FNE Warriors. All three teams are 2-3 and don’t have much history of recent success.
Of the group, Denver East looks most likely to be able to threaten the top tier of the conference, but it would be a surprise for any of the three to finish in the top half of the Mount Elbert standings.
Follow sports reporter Kevin Lytle at twitter.com/Kevin_Lytle and at facebook.com/KevinSLytle.
Fossil Ridge at No. 10 Cherry Creek, 7 p.m. Friday
Watch: CET (Comcast channel 105)
Twitter updates: @FossilFootball