JONESBORO — Valley View and Wynne find themselves in a familiar position as they prepare to play tonight at Yellowjacket Stadium.
Both teams are 2-0 in the 5A-East conference for the third consecutive year and the fourth time in five seasons. Wynne has held the upper hand in the series with six victories in seven meetings, the exception being two years ago when the Blazers won 28-23 on their way to a perfect regular season.
“It’s a pivotal game for us,” Valley View coach Sean Cockrell said. “Obviously it’s gone Wynne’s way more than ours, but we feel like it’s a big game for us and hopefully our kids are excited about it.”
Both teams will also carry a four-game winning streak into tonight’s game at Wynne.
Since losing 24-21 on a last-play field goal at Marion, Wynne (4-1) has blasted West Memphis, Morrilton, Brookland and Greene County Tech by a combined 139-44. The Yellowjackets didn’t give up a touchdown until late in the fourth quarter in either of their 5A-East victories.
Cockrell’s analysis of the Yellowjackets begins with a defense that is holding foes to less than 230 yards per game.
“They fly around to the ball. They don’t give up very many points. Their defensive line is very fast, very physical, and the linebackers are very good,” Cockrell said. “Overall they’re really good defensively and then I think it starts on the offensive line on the other side. You’ve got Carl Washington at running back obviously and the fullback is really good as well, but I think it starts up front. They come off the ball really hard and physical.”
Wynne limited GCT to 159 total yards in a 32-10 victory last week. Linebackers Timmy Watson and TreVon Holmes led the Yellowjackets with 10 and eight tackles, respectively. Tirrell Johnson stands out at end and is a key blocker on the offensive line.
Holmes, Johnson and Washington all earned all-state honors last season.
Fullback Kobey Davis ran for 211 yards and two touchdowns last week against GCT. Cardarian Washington ran for 90 yards and two touchdowns, while Carl Washington scored once while running for 66 yards. The Yellowjackets had 417 rushing yards as a team.
Cockrell said preparing for Wynne’s flexbone offense is a challenge.
“It’s a battle every year to try to figure out what’s the best way to try to simulate it. We watch film more than we ever do on any other week just to make sure that we’re seeing how they’re trying to block things, because we don’t have an offensive scheme like that,” he said. “We spend a lot of time walking through, figuring out who they’re going to block and how they’re going to try to block us, and what our reads and keys are. You have to play disciplined football on the defensive side. It’s really tough for us to get ready, but I feel like we’ve done that the last few years.”
Valley View’s starters saw first-half action the last two weeks as the Blazers blasted Paragould 35-6 and Forrest City 37-0 to start conference play. Valley View (4-1) also owns non-conference victories over Harding Academy and Rivercrest, two teams that have a combined 7-3 record.
Sophomore quarterback Carson Turley has completed 68.2 percent of his passes for 529 yards and three touchdowns. Turley is also the Blazers’ rushing leader with 271 yards and five touchdowns. Senior Reid Tyler is the leading receiver with 10 catches for 188 yards.
Cockrell said senior defensive end Mario Crawford, who has five sacks in three games, is close to 100 percent after sitting out the last two games with a shoulder injury.
Senior linebackers Jaden Wells and Cooper Lutz led Valley View with 50 and 42 tackles, respectively. The Blazers have returned an interception for a touchdown in each of their last three games.
Cockrell said his team, which will start only three seniors on offense, has to execute every play against Wynne.
“We can’t turn it over and we have to get better up front. I’ve challenged those guys. We feel like we have some guys who can make plays, but we have to get better up front,” Cockrell said. “We’re starting a sophomore at center and then four juniors (on the offensive line). They’re getting there. We’re not very big, so that’s tough on us, but I think the biggest key is we have to just execute everything we’re trying to do and coached up to do.”