The Coloradoan is previewing every local conference this week and next up is the Class 5A Mt. Lincoln Conference.
This is arguably the best conference in Class 5A and home to the defending champions.
The favorite: Valor Christian (2-3) has won the state title in its classification in six of the past seven seasons and the No. 8 Eagles are the defending 5A champions. Sure, the record isn’t pretty, but Valor has played two out-of-state powers and has in-state losses to No. 1 Pomona and No. 2 Mullen. The Eagles handily beat No. 10 Cherry Creek last week.
The biggest name is Dylan McCaffrey, starting quarterback, Michigan commit, son of Denver Broncos legend Ed McCaffrey and brother of Stanford star Christian McCaffrey. His little brother Luke also scored a touchdown on a kickoff return last week. Valor Christian’s record isn’t great right now, but the Eagles are still heavy favorites in the conference.
The pack: Lakewood (4-1), Legend (4-1), Poudre (3-2), Highlands Ranch (3-2) and Fountain-Fort Carson (2-3). This is arguably the deepest conference in 5A and it’s hard to figure out who is the next-best behind Valor Christian and who will land in the basement.
Poudre’s offense has been excellent at times. Running back J.T. Erickson ranks fourth in 5A with 703 yards and quarterback James Campbell has a bevy of talented playmakers on the outside. The defense has had wild swings — holding Douglas County, Rocky Mountain and Fort Collins to 14 points or less, while giving up 67 to Mountain Vista. The Impalas will need a solid defense and a high-scoring offense to finish near the top of the conference.
Lakewood was unbeaten until being blasted by Fossil Ridge last week. The Tigers average 40 points per game, but have played a weak schedule. They’ll be tested at Highlands Ranch and Valor Christian in the next two weeks to prove whether they’re for real.
Legend also has a shiny record played against a weak schedule. The Titans have a strong defense, allowing 13 points per game. Two Legend players (Marc Muma and Zack Hrovat) have more than 400 rush yards apiece this season. The Titans have an intriguing matchup against Valor Christian to open conference play.
Highlands Ranch went 1-9 last season, forfeiting three games after using a communication device in the quarterbacks’ helmet (illegal in high school football). The Falcons haven’t won more than three games since 2011, but are off to a strong start. Running back Kobe Eller is averaging 145 yards per game and has 11 total touchdowns this season.
Fountain-Fort Carson has played a tough schedule, losing to No. 1 Pomona and No. 9 Doherty. The Trojans also have an overtime win over Pine Creek, ranked No. 4 in Class 4A. The offense has struggled and is averaging 9.4 points per game, never scoring more than 18 in a single contest.
Follow sports reporter Kevin Lytle at twitter.com/Kevin_Lytle and at facebook.com/KevinSLytle.
Fountain-Fort Carson at Poudre, 4 p.m. Friday at French Field
Twitter updates: @Kevin_Lytle